Previewing Nets-Bulls: Small Forwards

Gerald Wallace, Luol Deng

The Brooklyn Nets will face the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, starting Saturday night at 8 P.M. Today and tomorrow, we’ll take a look at how the teams match up.

Gerald Wallace, Luol Deng
Gerald Wallace driving on Luol Deng. (AP)

SF: Luol Deng vs. Gerald Wallace

In previous years, this match-up would be a fun one to evaluate. For starters, Deng and Wallace are similar players: athletic wings that never take a night off, have the ability to defend multiple positions, and can score despite not being great shooters. In addition, both tough-as-nails forwards make dents in a significant portion of the box score, but their true value isn’t encompassed by the stat sheet.

But that was the past. Deng has made two straight All-Star games, while I can’t remember the last time Crash made two straight shots before back-to-back dunks in the regular season finale against the Pistons. Crash apologists will always point to his ability to influence games with his intensity and defense, but it’s hard to overlook his dismal offensive output this year: Wallace has shot .383 post All-Star Break, has scored 2.3 points per game in April and recently told The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps, “My confidence is totally gone.”

In the absence of 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose, Deng has led the defensive-minded Bulls in scoring this season at 16.5 points per game. Deng, however, has been a streaky shooter, and his .461 effective field goal percentage isn’t light years ahead of Crash’s .448. Still, even if we factor in the considerable disparity in field goal attempts per game — 14.6 for Deng vs 7.9 for Wallace — Deng is far and away the better offensive player at this point.

In terms of playoff experience, the nod again goes to Deng. The Sudanese native has played in 43 games to Crash’s 25, with Deng scoring more points in each of two individual playoffs than Wallace has career playoff points. Crash may remain a fan favorite and a significant cog in the Nets wheel, but the Bulls have the clear advantage at starting small forward position in this series.


Previous: Joe vs. Jimmy Next: Reggie vs. Boozer

Deron Williams vs. Kirk Hinrich | Joe Johnson vs. Jimmy Butler | Gerald Wallace vs. Luol Deng | Reggie Evans vs. Carlos Boozer | Brook Lopez vs. Joakim Noah | P.J. Carlesimo vs. Tom Thibodeau | Bench Mob vs. Bulls Bench