Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng is the team’s third-highest paid player, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the games. Deng has played in just over 13 minutes this season, only appearing in the team’s second game before being shut down as the Lakers try to find him a new home following his trade request.
Given Deng’s $17.2 million price tag this season and the $36.8 million he’s owed in the final two years of his deal afterward, locating a team willing to trade for him won’t be easy. That could complicate the Lakers’ plans to have enough cap space for two max-contracts this summer.
Deng, who is still traveling with the team and has played a mentor role while sitting out, told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN that collecting dust on the bench hasn’t been easy:
“It’s been hard,” Deng said. “It’s not easy not to play but at the end of the day I’m trying to control what I can control. I’m still there with the team, I’m at practices, I’m trying to help the young guys as much as I can. For me I would love to play. I don’t know if it will be here to be honest with you. Just keep working on my game and see the only way I could ever answer to anything like this is by my game, not by my words.”
Given the gaggle of young frontcourt players that the Lakers want to develop, it’s easy to see why he thinks his next opportunity to step foot on an NBA floor won’t come in Los Angeles.
And while Deng is far from a fan favorite due to his disappointing play and relegation to benchwarmer, he does clearly have something to give an NBA team. He just can’t contribute at the level people expect from a player as highly compensated as he is, but that’s not his fault.
Players are going to take that type of money if it’s offered to them, and his contract being such an overpay sits squarely at the feet of the Lakers’ last front office.
L.A.’s current regime will have to clean up that mess if they want to make a splash in free agency this summer, and it sounds like if they’re able to move Deng or allow him to go somewhere else that he’ll welcome the opportunity to get back on the court for another team.
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