When Ben Gordon signed with the Detroit Pistons in the off-season, Chicago didn't just lose its leading scorer. The team lost a fearless shooter during crunchtime. Forward Luol Deng will need to step into that role this season.
Deng missed 33 games and the playoffs last season because of a right leg injury. But he looked fine in Chicago's first game, hitting 8 of 13 shots and scoring 17 points in a win over the San Antonio Spurs. Chicago's other top wing scorer, guard John Salmons, had 10 points.
Salmons (18.3 PPG last season) will help with the scoring duties, but the 24-year-old Deng is the guy who signed a six-year, $71 million contract in 2008 to be the Bulls' star. Now is his chance to show that he was worth the investment. Deng is not great at creating shots for himself, but with a top-notch playmaker in point guard Derrick Rose on the team, he doesn't have to be. He just has to be a consistent mid-range scorer — something he was developing into when he averaged 18.8 points per game on 51.7 percent shooting in 2006–07 — and be aggressive in looking for his shot in the fourth quarter.