The NBA’s worst kept secret is now officially official:
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
Since his buyout with the Lakers a few weeks ago, it was widely speculated across the NBA that the 33-year old from South Sudan would reunite with his former coach Tom Thibodeau, despite having interest from multiple teams including the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors. The Athletic’s recent free-agent signing broke down the financial details of the Deng acquisition:
Free agent Luol Deng has reached agreement on a one-year, $2.4M deal with Minnesota, pending physical, per league sources.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 10, 2018
As for the timeline of how it all came together, it appears Deng started his “recruitment process” by celebrating the Vikings 24-16 win last night, and will finalize the deal this afternoon after passing a physical (which should be a foregone conclusion as long as Thibs didn’t take him to a Golden Corral):
Sequence of events of the #Twolves adding Luol Deng, pending his physical: After Thibs enjoyed the #Vikings victory, it was dinner with Deng yesterday, meeting this morning, and the physical this afternoon.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) September 10, 2018
Outside of those three tweets, the details surrounding a minimum deal like this are always pretty sparse. However, it should be mentioned that, according to Woj, “Thibodeau has made no promises to Deng on playing time and role.” Whether or not that statement holds up remains to be seen, but as ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out, it’s not like the Wolves were flooded with a slough of proven, reliable bench players:
I like the Luol Deng addition in Minnesota based on the veteran filling a need. The Timberwolves bench depth at the wings were thin with Josh Okogie (rookie) James Nunnally (26 total games), CJ Williams (2 way), Keita Bates-Diop (rookie) and Jared Terrell (2 way).— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) September 10, 2018
Simply put, this is a low risk, medium-to-high reward type of move that successful franchises make. Do we know if Luol Deng has anything left in the tank? Of course not, but at the veteran’s minimum, it’s at least worth exploring the possibility going into the upcoming season.
Admittedly, Deng looked fairly washed during his brief two-year (57 game) stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, but prior to signing a 4-year/$72 million dollar contract with LA, Deng was extremely productive during his two years in Miami, averaging 13 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2 assists while appearing in 90% of their possible games.
With rumors that contenders like the Rockets and Raptors were interested in Deng, it’s notable that he chose familiarity and his relationship with his ex-coach in signing with Minnesota. Does a transaction like this add fuel to the (growingly lame and decreasingly creative) TimberBulls jokes that will flood the internet today? Absolutely.
But for me personally, I take no issue whatsoever with bringing in a high-quality teammate at the veteran’s minimum and seeing if he can still produce on a quasi-contender. The structure of the current roster is built to win now, and with all of the “happenings” behind the scenes, adding a good teammate and veteran locker room presence is a no-brainer to me, regardless of who he used to play for in the past.
If news broke today that Luol Deng had signed with the Houston Rockets, Twitter would have gushed over how “Daryl Morey did it again!” and how the Rockets were playing chess while the rest of the NBA was playing checkers. But now that it’s Deng reuniting with Thibs, the “analysis” of the move seems far more skewed.
Will this move prove prosperous for the Wolves this upcoming season? No one really knows — it’ll be up to the Wolves head coach to once again pull the right strings to attempt to get the most out of the veteran swingman. But for now, it’s another shrewd short-term move by the Wolves President of Basketball Operations by investing in a low-risk transaction without mortgaging the long-term viability of the franchise.