Although the Los Angeles Lakers were coming off a disappointing 2015-16 season, there again was reason for optimism. The team parted with Byron Scott, whose coaching style never quite meshed with the players, and made the heralded hire of Luke Walton as head coach.
Walton inherited a roster that was young, but featured talented pieces. The Lakers were also armed with ample cap space to factor into free agency. Of course, the same held true in previous summers, and the returns were largely underwhelming.
Shortly after reaching agreements with Timofey Mozgoz and Jordan Clarkson, the Lakers agreed to terms with Luol Deng on a four-year, $72 million contract. The length of the contract was cause for some concern, but the veteran forward was coming off another productive season.
Whereas D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young and Lou Williams have been among those to flourish under Walton’s system, Deng has struggled mightily.
According to Mark Medina of the O.C. Register, Walton put responsibility on the coaching staff to draw more production out of the 31-year-old Deng:
“A lot of it is on us too as coaches to get him more positions and set plays where he knows he’ll get shots,” Walton said. “A lot of what we do is random. We like that style of play. Whoever is open, gets the shot.”
The style of offense is notably different than what Deng previously played in throughout his career. Coming off a 1-for-5 performance in Wednesday’s loss to the Houston Rockets, Deng went 3-for-6 on Friday night and added 11 rebounds, which was one off his season high.
Deng has shot better than 40 percent in just four games this season, and his 33.7 field goal percentage is on track to set a career low mark. Despite the prolonged struggles, Walton has stuck with Deng in the lineup, as he’s started each of the 25 games this season.