Luol Deng’s days in Cleveland appear numbered and the L.A. Lakers and Phoenix Suns are expected to battle over the grizzled forward in summer free agency.
Things didn’t work out the way Deng or the Cavs envisioned after the team acquired the former All-Star at the trade deadline from the Chicago Bulls. Deng has averaged 14.3 points on the season, his lowest numbers since the 2008-09 season, and has openly complained about his teammates’ level of immaturity, while for the fourth straight season the Cavs will be watching from home once the playoffs commence later this month.
Just last month, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the Cavs planned to only extend Deng a “modest offer” in free agency, almost assuring the unrestricted free agent stay with the organization will only span months after being acquired for Andrew Bynum.
Still, the Cavs figure to be in the market for a veteran small forward this summer to produce just what the 28-year-old Deng has over his entire 10-year career. The versatile, two-time All-Star has averaged 16 points, six rebounds and three rebounds over his career.
Deng’s best season came in 2006-07 with the Bulls when he averaged 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal. Along with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, Deng led the Bulls to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons when they averaged better than 52 wins a season.
Shortly after arriving in Cleveland, Deng compared his time in Chicago with what he’s experienced in his new environment, telling ProBasketballTalk.com of the long rumored feud between star guard Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or front office in Chicago. It’s a mess.”
While Deng has kept his summer plans close to the vest, the overriding assumption is that he will prefer to sign with a contending team, though the Lakers could be decidedly better next season compared to this year with Kobe Bryant expected to be back in the lineup.