The Los Angeles Lakers made a controversial move last summer when they signed forward Luol Deng to a long-term deal. Then-31 years old and with a lot of NBA minutes under his belt, the prevailing thought was that Deng’s best days were behind him, making the four-year deal he received from the Lakers a bit of a shocker.
The hope was that Deng would provide veteran stability for a young team and play the role of mentor to rookie Brandon Ingram.
However, Deng struggled for much of the year and is looking to bounce back next season. He told James Walters of the Daily Star that he is particularly looking forward to playing alongside Lonzo Ball:
“I’m looking forward to [playing with Ball]. I haven’t seen him play yet but I’m excited. The kid can play. He has a high basketball IQ so it’ll be good to work with him and see what he’s got.”
Los Angeles is hoping that Ball will allow them to get out and run in transition and get easy baskets, but that isn’t really Deng’s game at this point of his career. In the half court, however, Ball does an excellent job finding open shooters and manipulating the defense, which could potentially result in more open looks for Deng.
With the Lakers set on giving minutes to their younger players last season (with an eye on their top-three protected pick as well), Deng was shut down in late February. In 56 games prior to that, he averaged just 7.6 points on 39% shooting to go along with 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and .9 steals in 26.5 minutes per game.
The Lakers will certainly hope to get more production out of Deng this season, but complicating things is the fact that he seems to be more suited for the power forward position at this point, but minutes there are scarce thanks to the presence of Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Kyle Kuzma. Ball may help change Deng’s fortunes, but he will have to find a way to crack the rotation first.