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The Space Between: How Important to the Chicago Bulls is Luol Deng?

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The Space Between: How Important to the Chicago Bulls is Luol Deng?

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Luol Deng may be grossly undervalued in Chicago.

COMMENTARY | Seems the name Luol Deng surfaces in trade rumors every single off-season. This can be taken one of two ways. One point of view could be that Deng is coveted by several NBA teams. He is "wanted." The other, and perhaps more telling perspective suggests that Chicago Bulls management deems him good, but expendable--a replaceable talent. Why else would he be dangled as trade-bait so frequently? Now, here sits the All-Star forward once again in that uncomfortable space between neglected and necessary.

This time, the rumors may actually come to fruition. Deng will be in the final year of his contract next season. At which point the Bulls would either need to sign him to an extension or risk losing him for nothing as an unrestricted free agent. There are conflicting reports as to whether or not there have been contract talks between the two sides. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the only other logical option would obviously be to trade him.

There are several potential scenarios swirling about, the latest of which have Deng going to the Cleveland Cavaliers or Washington Wizards in exchange for mainly each team's respective draft pick. Should he be moved at all? That is the question. Is Deng a great player, worthy of being labeled "untouchable?" Perhaps not. Is he a very, very good player that would be difficult to replace? Absolutely.

In the world of sports it's all about what you have done lately. Unfortunately, the last memory that fans have of Deng is of him being stricken with complications from a spinal tap and missing the remainder of the playoffs. We saw young gun Jimmy Butler rise up in his absence and prove himself starter-worthy. This is another factor that may contribute to how important to the current roster Deng is perceived to be.

But it is also important to remember that Deng led the Bulls in minutes played in each of the last three seasons. He has been the team's top perimeter defender and has career averages of 16 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Not to mention all of the things he does that do not show up on a stat sheet. Deng plays hard, smart basketball. It's not that athletes of his caliber are extinct in the NBA, but they aren't exactly in abundance either. There is a reason so many other teams want him.

It is highly doubtful that Deng could be traded for someone of equal or greater value. He is probably more essential to the Bulls than most think or give him credit for. But sadly, that may have to be found out the hard way.

Acamea Deadwiler is a Chicago-area native with several years experience covering the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, for She has also been featured in Bounce magazine, SLAM Online, and various other publications. Follow Acamea on Twitter @AcameaLD.

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