Luol Deng, a power forward who’s an Unrestricted Free Agent, was voted by you as the most desirable UFA on the market. Can we construct a scenario in which he will join the Toronto Raptors next season? We won’t know unless we try.
Deng is a 29-year-old veteran of 10 NBA seasons and 677 games, all but 40 of which were played with the Chicago Bulls. He was moved to Cleveland halfway through last season, but his presence was not enough to propel a playoff run. [20-second timeout: the trade was one of those only-in-the-NBA specials, whereby aging Chicago received a whack of much-needed draft picks, and underachiever deluxe Andrew Bynum, whom they promptly waived. Shades of Rob Babcock paying Alonzo Mourning not to play as a result of the Vince Carter trade.] Whether Deng wants to resign with a Cavs teams that’s committed to youth is problematic; he’s been quoted as saying he’d prefer to find a contending team.
Deng is a mobile 6’9″ 220 lbs. bundle of energy. His career stats are amazingly consistent, and we could practically write in ink that he will score between 15 and 17 points, and grab between 6 and 7 rebounds, every night. Comparing him to our current starter at Power Forward, Amir Johnson, we’re likely to bump our scoring by at least 4 points per game, without giving up much. Deng is a fine defender, both on the ball and helping. Luol is not a stretch-4. Although he can hit the 3-ball (.329 career average), coach Dwane Casey isn’t likely to draw up any plays for Luol outside the arc.
All of this skill, and his positive intangibles, won’t come cheap. Deng received over $14M last season, and probably won’t be happy getting much less. Whether deep-pocketed teams will be interested in ponying up that kind of dough for someone with the pounding he’s taken in his career is difficult to know. I doubt the Raps would go much over a 3-year deal paying him around $11M per season. That’s likely the kind of money Kyle Lowry will be offered.
There’s an interesting aspect to the Raps’ (presumed) pursuit of Deng. Luol was born on the African continent, but carries a British passport. Is it conceivable that he would look on playing in Canada, a Commonwealth nation, as less of a step down than American players sometimes do? (Furthermore, could the fact our GM, Masai Ujiri, is a Nigerian native now firmly ensconced in Toronto be intriguing to Luol?)
I wondered if a sign-&-trade might be attractive to the Cavs, assuming Deng told them he wasn’t coming back. Someone’s got to play for Cleveland who isn’t a beardless youth. If we move Landry Fields, Chuck Hayes and Tyler Hansbrough, the trade is successful, and Luol gets the same kind of money he’s been getting. I always get a kick out of what the Machine’s algorithm says the result will be. For the Raps – no change! For Cleveland – a loss of 3 games.
What do you think, Rapture Nation? Should we pursue this guy, or let someone else overpay? Let me know in the Comments.