Simply put, they must embrace consistency if the Derrick Rose-less Bulls are going to compete in the Eastern Conference.
On Wednesday night at Phoenix, Boozer and Deng carried a heavy load for Chicago and it resulted in an overtime victory. Boozer had his best game of the season, tallying 28 points and 14 rebounds. Deng was also a force, notching 21 points (on 8-14 shooting from the field) and 5 boards.
These type of stat lines need to occur frequently, but the concern is that their fruitful play will waver.
This is particularly a concern with Boozer. Prior to Boozer's outburst against the Suns, he has been far from a model of consistency in the season's early stages.
In three of the Bulls' first eight games, Boozer has failed to reach double digits in scoring. A couple of these outings were inexplicably poor (i.e. 4 points on 1-8 shooting in a home loss to New Orleans).
An issue to monitor is his alarmingly low field goal percentage, which rests at 43.9 percent on the season. He is a career 53.5 percent shooter from the field, so his 2012-13 percentage must turn the corner quickly or else this will become a major worry.
What's clear is the Boozer that showed up against Phoenix must appear much more frequently than once every five games. He is by no means going to average 28 and 14, but he does need to produce on a consistent basis. It's not unrealistic to expect him to pour in 17 points per game while also supplying close to 10 rebounds an outing.
Another issue to speculate here is his assertiveness and Bulls intentionally seeking to involve Boozer. Chicago often goes through stretches where Boozer lacks touches. This shouldn't be the case.
Despite being 30-years-old, Boozer still has some moves in his repertoire, and it's foolish of the Bulls to overlook him.
Therefore, Boozer must assert himself more, particularly early in games (as he did against the Suns), and the rest of the Bulls must look for Boozer to get him in a rhythm. These efforts all factor in to helping Boozer establish more consistency amid the Bulls' rotation.
Deng, on the other hand, has displayed consistency through Chicago's initial games. He's leading the Bulls in scoring at 19.1 PPG and he's also hauling in 7.1 RPG. What's more, he's shooting a quality 49.6 percent from the field.
If he continues to play at such a high level, he will find himself on the All-Star team for the second straight season.
The key word, however, is if. Last year, Deng averaged just 15.3 PPG on 41.2 percent shooting.
The Bulls obviously need him to maintain the form that's been evident early this year. His shot selection has been stellar (he's shooting less threes this season) and he's scoring in a bevy of ways. He's even been playing out of the post some this season, enabling him to fight for high-percentage shots closer to the bucket.
Deng needs to continue to feed off the momentum he's built early this season, rather than hitting a wall and soon watching his numbers slip towards closer to last year. With Rose out, Deng must embody consistency and serve as a "go-to" player. He's done it through eight games, but this production must continue throughout the grind of the season.
One reason to doubt whether Deng's pace will continue is the minutes he's logging. He's currently leading the league in minutes played per game at 41.0.
There's certainly reason to question if he'll have some lackluster performances as the season progresses and his body fatigues. How will his body hold up when he plays on back-to-back nights? Deng will always give superb effort, but it wouldn't be shocking to see his efficient shooting wane due to tired legs.
Deng's consistency is a pivotal element to Chicago's success this season. It's unlikely that he'll continue shooting at such a high rate, but even if he just slips to around his career percentage (46.5 percent), he'll still be producing more than enough for the Bulls.
They just can't afford to see his average dip to around 15 with a subpar percentage, because his output is a pertinent need with Rose in street clothes.
Even when Rose returns, the play of Boozer and Deng is at the core of how far Chicago will go this season.
But until their superstar returns to the hardwood, Boozer and Deng's performance is foundational, and it all centers upon them embracing consistency on a night-in, night-out basis.
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