September 5, 2018, 2:13 pm
Two sources have now surfaced expressing the Wolves’ interest in free agent forward Luol Deng.
Marc Stein of the New York Times was first to report on the team’s interest in Deng, stating that they’ve “launched their planned pursuit” earlier today.
The Wolves have launched their planned pursuit of @LuolDeng9, league sources say, after the veteran forward became a free agent by clearing waivers earlier this week
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) September 5, 2018
Shams Charania of the Athletic later added that the two sides will meet “within the next week” and discuss a potential deal.
Sources: Free agent Luol Deng will meet with the Minnesota Timberwolves within the next week as sides discuss potential deal.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 5, 2018
President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau hasn’t been coy about his desire for veteran leadership and he’s typically gone back to his Chicago days for answers.
Deng was waived and eventually bought-out by the Lakers two years into a four-year $72 million contract. He played in 57 games during his stint in Los Angeles, including just one lone game last season. A double-figure scorer for 12 consecutive seasons to begin his career, he averaged just 7.5 the last two years.
Deng was at his peak when playing under Thibs, which included his two All-Star appearances, but that was four years ago. Now at age 33 it’s fair to wonder just how much is left in the tank after a number of grinding seasons in Chicago. Before Jimmy Butler became Thibodeau’s horse, it was Deng that held the honor.
The two sides showing interest in one another isn’t shocking. Among all of Deng’s possible options on the market, his rapport with Thibs and path to playing time may be easier to see in Minnesota. He still has a strong desire to play too, as seen by the $7.5 million he agreed to gave back to the Lakers when he could have just rode out the final two years of his contract on the bench (Ramona Shelburne of ESPN outlines his buyout here). It’s likely just a matter of filing paperwork at this point.
After first showing mutual interest last week, the two sides have now come to a contract agreement according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Free agent forward Luol Deng met with Minnesota president/coach Tom Thibodeau today and sides are finalizing a one-year deal, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 10, 2018
Shams Charania reports that the deal will be worth $2.4 million over one year. With his buyout from the Lakers, Deng sacrificed more than $5 million to have a chance to play this season, and he gets to do so with his former coach in what should feel like a familiar environment.
His fit at this time remains unclear. He’s spent the majority of the last two seasons parked on the bench in Los Angeles after some misguided management issues, so perhaps he’s as fresh as he’s ever been, but it remains to be seen what he can still provide on the court. Deng could provide minutes at the three and the four, depending on matchups, allowing the Wolves to have some versatility if they want to play big or a bit smaller. He could also provide good leadership off the bench and ideally work closely with the young players.
The player who takes the biggest hit is probably rookie Keita Bates-Diop, although realistically Thibs wasn’t going to give him major minutes anyway. This also could be bad new for sharpshooting wing James Nunnally, who signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Wolves last month. His spot on the roster could be in jeopardy if the Wolves creep over the tax by adding any additional players (Joakim Noah might be out there soon). They are currently $1.36 million under the tax line.
Make no mistake, Thibs didn’t sign Deng to only act as a second coach and leader. He will get minutes at the expense of the younger players on the roster, at least to open the season, and he’d be first in line should Andrew Wiggins or Jimmy Butler have to miss any time. As of now he’s probably slotted in next to Derrick Rose and Anthony Tolliver (and hopefully Tyus Jones) as the main contributors off the bench.
The signing is unsurprising, though the fit is still a question mark.
The Timberwolves have confirmed the signing.
#Twolves officially announce the team has signed forward Luol Deng. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released. A 14-year NBA veteran, Deng has appeared in 880 career games (826 starts) over 14 seasons with Chicago, Miami, Cleveland and L.A. Lakers. pic.twitter.com/Du35WbB7pC
— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) September 10, 2018