Deng was suppose to be one of the safest signing, yet he started the beginning of the year really poorly as his jumpshot was somewhere down in Temecula and nobody could find it. There was still a sense of optimism that Deng could manage to turn it all around since he was a proven player. His track record dictated that he would go back to his regular self.
Getting past the original slow start, he has looked much better than before. In the month of November, he was averaging 6.6 points per game. Now in the month of December that was gone all the way up to 10.7 points per game. That’s quite the jump and it is good to see that he is performing as expected. His 3 point percentage has also taken a jump in a month going up from rough 30% to 35.7%. He has never been a great shooter but that 35-37 percentile is where he should be at.
He has also been play more time at the power forward slot now that Nance is going to miss extended time and that has also helped his performance. The 4 spot is where he is more comfortable at the moment. It is fine to play him at the 3 for a couple of years, but his role down the line will be at the 4 once his athleticism declines.
The Lakers played the Utah Jazz on Tuesday and it was a hard fought game that the Lakers could of won if they were able to hit shots and could execute down the line in games. Utah was a really good team that has a lot of talent and is ready to make noise in the playoffs. The Lakers were able to hang with them all the way until the end and it was thanks to the performances from Julius and Deng.
This improvement from Deng could of not come at a better time as he had a good first quarter and allowed for the Lakers to stay in the game. He then went quiet, but he was still active on the boards and played some good defense. Some of the energy that was missing from Deng appeared in this game and his effect when he does have his energy is pretty profound.
Now let’s get to this film room before Gordon Hayward posterizes me.
Here Deng finally gets some good lift on his jumper and rises up to hit the shot. This was an element that his game was lacking. He is a good cutter and a pretty good finisher, but his jumper allows him play most of his time at the 3. It is also a good sign for D’Angelo Russell as he needs a 3 that can space the floor. Nice job by Deng to feel the defense out and create his own shot.
I told you D’Angelo would reap the benefits. As it has become the norm for D’Angelo, his passing was crisp and it helped set up teammates into getting good looks. All he needs is for players to knock down shots and it was promising to see Deng make this shot. Although he would airball a 3 later on, this 3 was quite deep and he nailed it. He did a nice job of stepping into the shot to get the leg power necessary to make it.
Deng is a really savvy player and knows when to cut and how to move without the ball. This was an impressive set play by the Lakers to take advantage of Deng’s cutting skills. As they have done many times this year, the Lakers ran a handoff set that got Deng the ball with an open lane. Only problem was that Gobert was in the way and Deng did a good job of shielding the ball so Gobert couldn’t send it to France. Veteran move.
Lakers and defense should never be said together in a sentence, but they have been improving a lot on this end. This was a nice read by Deng as this pass was easily read and it gave Deng a steal. He showed a good burst to get to the ball and then laying it in. This is what the Lakers paid him all this money to do. The smart play.
Deng really showed some good activity down low. It was mostly due to the fact that Favors was out, but still it was good to see him being active. On this play, he did a good job of being in the right place at the right time to get the rebound off the tap. He then made the right choice to kick it out to the open Nick Young.
This was another smart play by Deng. He did a good job of making a simple block so the ball wouldn’t go out of bounds. This is a play that also shows off how much his jumping has improved. He was also quick getting to the ball. This led to a transition break that the young Lakers could use to score a quick bucket.
He barely missed this shot, but the amount of lift he was able to get from his legs was again impressive and very much something to look for down the line. He has a very detailed injury history and a lot mileage. Knowing all of that, it is great to see that his shot and legs have not completely disappeared. It appears we are finally getting our money’s worth.