Saturday, April 21, 2007

Deng vs. Gasol

Many of you know that I was all over John Paxson for not acquiring Paul Gasol during the season. I didn't like his reasoning (that since Gasol was a 20/9 guy instead of a 22/10 guy, it wasn't worth it, as if 2 points and 1 rebound a game somehow made all the difference) and I didn't think he was correct in assigning more value to Luol Deng than to Gasol.

Somewhere along the line, my belief that Gasol had more value than Deng got confused with me not liking Deng as a player. Not true. I told Dritz last year (when Deng was still coming off the bench) that I thought the young Manute Bol pupil would be an eight-time All-Star before it was all said and done. I drafted him on pretty much all my fantasy teams this year. I think Deng is sick.

That said, I still contend that the Bulls should have dealt for Gasol. The whole reason they traded Tyson Chandler for P.J. Brown was to get a valuable trade chip in Brown's expiring contract. That, combined with all of their assets (namely Gordon and Deng), seemed to position the Bulls as the ideal team to make a run at Kevin Garnett or Gasol. When Paxson balked and refused to move Deng (and, to be fair, Ty Thomas), he basically eliminated any chance the Bulls had of winning it all.

The reason I mention this now, in the midst of a 33-point game from Deng, is that there was a stretch during Game One when a 12-point Chicago lead was whittled to two ... with Shaq and Wade on the bench. The reason this happened - and the reason it will continue to happen and eventually knock this team out of the postseason - is that they simply can not throw the ball in to the post. They had all sorts of players stepping up today - from Thabo Sefolosha to Ben Gordon to Deng to Nocioni - yet still felt like a merry band of underdogs rather than a title contender. Without a big man that can score on the block, draw crucial double-teams and fouls (the twin pillars of easy NBA playoff offense), and control pace, Chicago is going to remain on the outside looking in.

That's why, even in the midst of Deng's most glorious moment, I still think they got it wrong.

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