The Los Angeles Lakers and Luol Deng reached the long anticipated point of parting ways over the weekend by agreeing to a buyout. The veteran forward reportedly gave back $7.5 million in the agreement that saw him waived via the stretch provision.
Deng was the last reminder of a 2016 NBA free agency period that saw an influx of television contract money influence contracts players signed. He inked a four-year, $72 million deal which became a heavy strain on the team’s salary cap with each passing season.
Some of that was very much related to the Lakers going in a different direction, especially last season. Deng started the season opener but never stepped foot on the court after that; even as injuries zapped the team’s depth late in the year.
With Deng poised to clear waivers and become eligible to sign with any team in free agency, the Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly will be a team with interest, per John Krawczynnski of The Athletic:
Reported earlier in the summer that Wolves would have interest in Deng and/or Noah should they become available. That hasn’t changed. https://t.co/xiFGXBDgsO
— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) September 1, 2018
That Minnesota would explore signing Deng isn’t much of a surprise. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is a fan of veteran players, and particularly those he has prior history with.
The Timberwolves have already traded for Jimmy Butler, and signed Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose. Like Deng, the trio was with Thibodeau during his tenure coaching the Chicago Bulls.
Deng averaged 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game over his 10 seasons with the Bulls. Those averages fell to 7.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists in two seasons with the Lakers.
While many doubt the 33-year-old has much to offer at this stage in his career, Deng remains confident in himself, and he may very well have an ally in Thibodeau.