Free agent and 14-year veteran Luol Deng has signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, as announced by the team. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, it is a one-year deal set at the veteran’s minimum of $2.4 million, pending a physical.
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) September 10, 2018
This move comes after a two-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. Deng came to LA in 2016 on a four year, $72 million contract, as the Lakers hoped to add veteran talent following Kobe Bryant’s retirement. But Deng did not nearly meet the expectations of head coach Luke Walton. After averaging 7.6 PPG his first season with the Lakers, Deng only appeared in one game and was on the inactive list for the majority of the 2017-2018 season. Despite this, he was the Lakers’ highest paid player last season due to his massive initial contract. The “Lakers’ Nowhere Man”, as referred to by the Los Angeles Times, was finally freed from the situation when he agreed to a contract buyout on Sep. 1.
“This is going to be a phase in my career when I look back and wonder, how could this have happened?” Deng told the Los Angeles Times about his time with the Lakers.
The Timberwolves deal reunites Deng with his former Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau and teammates Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. Thibodeau has nearly recreated his former Bulls’ starting lineup, only missing Joakim Noah. It makes sense that he wants players that he has previously built solid connections with and given that they had a very successful run together from 2010-2013, this “TimberBulls” team may actually make sense.
– Derrick Rose
– Jimmy Butler
– Luol Deng
– Taj Gibson
Operation TimberBulls is almost completehttps://t.co/CYll48ZTS6
— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 10, 2018
Deng’s career has been on the decline since he averaged 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG in 2013-2014, his final season with the Bulls. His production and minutes have dropped each season since. But before joining the Lakers in 2016, he was still a solid contributor for the Miami Heat where he averaged double digits during his two seasons there. Deng had some of his best years under Thibodeau and the Bulls, so it is not out of the question that the “TimberBulls” could ignite a spark in the veteran forward.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that Thibodeau has not guaranteed playing time for Deng but will give him the opportunity to compete for minutes. The Timberwolves have very little depth at the wing, so Deng is in a good position to succeed this season.
After going from an All-Star to not even good enough to make an active roster, Deng is in a perfect place to resurrect his career and compete with a playoff-caliber team.