When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for two-time all star Luol Deng a little over a week ago, we proclaimed our love for the trade and said Deng steps in as the second best player on the team immediately.
We were wrong.
Deng is the best player wearing the wine and gold uniform right now.
You are probably reading this saying we are out of our mind, surely Kyrie Irving, the much-publicized young point guard is the best player. After all, he is the face of the franchise.
After watching four games with Deng in uniform, it is clear he is the alpha dog.
Why? Not to be too simplistic, but he’s a basketball player.
He makes open jump shots, he moves without the basketball, he plays solid defense. Isn’t that what you want out of a basketball player?
We have been campaigning for some sort of veteran presence on the Cavaliers, and getting the all-star small forward from the Bulls, is the first step in the right direction.
Instantly, Deng has developed a chemistry with fellow vet Anderson Varejao, communicating with him on defense and moving without the ball to get good looks at the hoop when the “Wild Thing” has the ball at the elbow.
This is because they know how to play professional basketball, something the younger Cavs like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters have yet to grasp.
However, these two players and the rest of the players who are new to the league should be watching Deng and Varejao with an eye toward being the professional both of these players are.
It’s why it is clear, if you know basketball, that Luol Deng is now the Cavaliers’ best player.
It appears to have surprised the newcomer when his new teammates didn’t communicate on the floor. To be sure, the Bulls must do it quite a bit, and talking makes teams better particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
The younger players have ability, but they seem to have “SportsCenter” games, meaning they do things that show up on highlight reels, but don’t necessarily contribute to winning basketball games.
Irving, in particular, seems to be struggling since the arrival of Deng, shooting just 37.5% from the floor and his assists are down as well in the four games Deng has played. Perhaps, Irving is having difficulty converting from being in total control of the offense to Deng’s more disciplined approach.
And Deng’s contribution on the defensive end definitely tips the scales in his favor. He may not be on the all-defensive team, but he gets in his man’s way consistently.
Watch the younger players on the defensive end, opponents flash to the basket all the time and you will see the Cavalier defender trailing his man quite a bit.
This isn’t to say Luol Deng is a special player, but he appears to be the epitome of a professional basketball player. He plays the game the correct way.
GM Chris Grant would be well served to obtain another veteran player to go with Deng and Varejao to help the Cavaliers move forward.
The more players guys like Irving, Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller can learn the game from the better off the future of the Cavaliers will be.