Analytics Art: Deng filling gaps nicely for Heat in Bosh’s absence


VIDEO: Luol Deng delivers in Heat’s win over Wizards

By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com

Luol Deng is trying to get his groove back. The two-time All-Star floundered throughout the first half of the season for the Miami Heat, averaging just 10.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 43.1 percent from the field prior to the All-Star break.

Since then, however, Deng has experienced a resurgence. The timing couldn’t be better, as teammate Chris Bosh may be forced to sit out the remainder of the season following another blood clot scare, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Without Bosh on the floor (four games since All-Star weekend), Deng has rattled off four straight double-doubles.

In Deng’s first two games after the break, he scored 30 and 27 points, respectively. Those performances mark the two highest-scoring games of the 30-year-old’s season.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Deng’s post-All-Star averages are more favorable than his lackluster numbers before the break.

Save for 3-point shooting — Deng’s only made two of his 11 attempts from deep since the break — he has upped his game across the board. His scoring uptick to 21.5 points headlines his impact sans Bosh, but he’s been great defensively as well.

With averages of 8.5 defensive rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his past four games, Deng’s defense is providing a huge boost. According to NBA.com, Deng’s defensive rebound percentage of 22.8 percent is vastly superior to his pre-All-Star mark of 13.3 percent. His defensive rating of 99.0 since All-Star festivities also bucks a trend Heat fans have been seeing far too often this season — that opponents are better offensively when Deng is on the floor.

When taking the season as a whole, Miami’s opponents have scored more points at a more efficient clip while also dishing out more assists when Deng plays. Now, his two-way play has led to three big wins against key Eastern Conference opponents: Atlanta, Washington and Indiana.

The Heat are still good without Bosh, but there’s just something missing. At least for a short stint, Deng has helped Miami overcome that glaring limitation by scoring in bunches and crashing the glass.

Chances are he’ll regress to the mean moving forward, but at least Deng appears to have some pep in his step. He no longer looks as if he’s lacking confidence, which provides a silver lining for a Heat team facing plenty of adversity heading toward a playoff push.

Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA PlayersNBA Historical Teams and dozens of other topics.

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