Luol Deng returned to the lineup on Saturday and helped the Bulls to a 103-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, scoring 21 points and pulling down 9 boards in 41 minutes of play.
Not really a stat line you expect from someone whos sat out the past seven games with a torn ligament in his left wrist.
It says a lot about him as a pro, said head coach Tom Thibodeau. Luol has a lot of physical and mental toughness. He stayed in great shape, prepared himself well, was diligent with his rehab and did all the things that you would expect a good pro to do. I saw how hard he was working on his conditioning so I knew that that part, he would be fine.
"The thing about Lu is not only is he a two-way player, but he plays with both units and he makes both units function well, he continued. We missed him some from that standpoint but in some ways, it was also good. It gave some other guys an opportunity to get more playing time and they responded well and were encouraged by that.
After Saturdays win, Deng mentioned that he originally planned to make his return Thursday night against the New York Knicks, but wanted to stay as close to doctors orders as possible.
I was going to play when we were in New York but if I played in New York Saturday was two weeks after sustaining the injury and I was told four to six weeks, rest it four weeks and then come back, said Deng after their win on Saturday.
I knew when I had the injury, the way it felt, I could recover quick. When we were in New York I was going to play but it got sore. I did some warming up with Scal Brain Scalabrine and John Lucas. We did a lot of three-on-three and one-on-one and it got sore the next day. We wanted to be smart and let it be two weeks.
As for any concern on how the wrist would respond after Saturdays game, Deng went through a full practice on Sunday without any limitations.
Hes fine, now, said Thibodeau. If he has a problem, well deal with it then but he said he feels good.
NBA Power Rankings: League on pace for best offensive season in decades
NBA Power Rankings: League on pace for best offensive season in decades
The NBA season is off to an explosive start, with offense being the theme so far.
NBA fans have gotten to see great offense from all around the league. Rookie guard Trae Young went off for 35 points, the Pelicans scored 149 points in a (no overtime) game and even well-known downtrodden franchises like the Sacramento Kings have got in on the fun, putting up 131 points in a surprising win over the Thunder.
If the pace of play keeps up league-wide, the 2018-19 season will end up being an offensive masterpiece, sure to spark change to defensive systems in the ever-evolving NBA.
With the Golden State Warriors still shaking off rust and the Rockets looking weaker, (relatively) new powerhouses like the Raptors and Nuggets have dominated this very early portion of the NBA season.
At 6-foot, 4-inches and with a long wingspan, Harrison would step in and likely be at least the second-best perimeter defender on the team behind Kris Dunn. And he is the type of player, when combined with a talent like Wendell Carter Jr. and/or Dunn, could help form the type of lineup that could have a transformative effect on the overall team defense.
Last season Harrison had a defensive rating of 109, this despite the fact that the Sun—as a team—had a defensive rating of 113.51, over four points worse than when Harrison was on the floor.
His best skill is his ability to “get skinny” around a screener, meaning that on defense, Harrison is adept at angling his body to get around players trying to screen him off his man:
The Bulls need more players who show Harrison’s effort level when navigating screens on defense, not just because it will make life easier on their rim protectors, but because they also need to make sure they continue adding players who lead by example on that end of the floor. A team as young as the Bulls needs to collect young talent who pride themselves on defense, and Harrison fits the part.
When it comes to offense, Harrison doesn’t have the most impressive profile, but his play on that end of the floor is similar to former Bull David Nwaba. Harrison is not even an average 3-point shooter (23.1 percent from 3-point range), but he makes up for it in other ways.
His rebounding is an area of strength, and fitting in with his preference to bring physicality to his matchup, he is adept at getting to the free throw line.
Last year Harrison’s 30.6 percent free throw attempt rate would’ve been a top-five mark on the Bulls. But his low usage rate (18 percent) will likely be lower in Chicago, so the free throw numbers may fall. But with so many score-first players on the roster, Harrison will still be able to crash the glass against the many guards who forget to box out their man.
Offensive rebounding will be less of a focus for a Bulls team that wants to preach getting back on transition defense, but Harrison gives Fred Hoiberg a special player that can do both. Harrison will run back on defense to help create the “shell” that the best teams create to cut off easy forays to the rim, and then when his team gets the ball back and is on the fastbreak, he brings value as the “trailer” (trailing man on a fastbreak) even without shooting ability:
This signing could end up being a big one for the Bulls, however small it may seem now.
Around the league, more and more teams are starting to invest resources in multiple ball-handler offenses that negate the differences between point guard and shooting guard, making versatile back court defenders a must.
This will be evident when the Bulls take on the Dallas Mavericks in game No. 3 of the regular season, as Rick Carlisle's Mavericks feature Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic in an explosive offense that doesn't have a defined "lead" guard.
The Bulls will continue to attempt to curtail offense with a high-scoring back court duo when they take on the Charlotte Hornets in a back-to-back on October 26 and 27. If Harrison is worked into the rotation by then, expect to see Harrison and Dunn on the floor together to match up with Doncic and Smith respectively, but have the flexibility to switch defensive assignments on the fly. If Chicago's perimeter defense starts to offer significantly more resistance, it will allow quicker improvement from Carter and the rest of the Bulls bigs on the interior.
With Zach LaVine currently in the top-five in the NBA in points per game, Dunn returning and Lauri Markkanen getting healthy, the Bulls front office is slowly approaching the point where their team has enough players who are considered possible focal points of an offense.
To become a championship contender, you need to have that one player who is unequivocally a superstar capable of a heavy workload, and only time will tell if the Bulls already have that player or need to acquire him. But the other important factor in building a championship roster is having the elite-level role players who do the little things that make life easier for their teammates in all phases of the game, and Shaq Harrison is excellent prospect who fits that exact mold.