Now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have a new swingman in Luol Deng, the question arises as to just what part of their future plans does he hold? The former Chicago Bulls fan favorite was traded this week in exchange for the contract of Andrew Bynum and three draft picks. Does that mean they are committed to Deng as a future centerpiece? Let’s be real here — Cleveland just threw away draft picks in this deal. But, why?
Here is the intriguing part for Cleveland. Deng has a history of being banged up. Sure, he’s played through a lot of his pain and minor injuries. But, he hasn’t had a fully, completely, 100 percent healthy year in quite some time. The Cavs don’t know if he will stay healthy. He is only going to get older.
To go along with that point, Deng has a heck of a lot of mileage on him. Tom Thibodeau ran him ragged with the Bulls, and the guy has averaged 36 minutes per game throughout his career. Since the 2009-2010 season though, Deng has averaged a little over 38 minutes per game. He has been depended on far too much in the Bulls’ system — part of the reason why Chicago fans have an issue with how their coach has managed minutes in the past couple of years.
So, with that said, Cleveland is going to “evaluate the trade” with Deng for the rest of this year. But, what exactly does that mean? I believe they just wanted to clear the contract of Bynum first and foremost. Secondly, Deng’s expiring contract is another $14.25 million off the books this summer. Deng rejected a 3-year, $30 million extension from Chicago. What does that tell you?
Deng wants more than $10 million per year. Do you think the Cavs will give that to a guy with so much wear and tear on his body over the years? Deng is a very good player, don’t get me wrong. But, remember, Cleveland wants to have a killer offseason this summer. They’d love to bring back a certain two-time champion if the right deal can be worked out.
Yes, that means LeBron James. If the Cavs want to pursue James, they probably won’t re-sign Deng. In fact, I think they had this in mind all along. Without the contracts of Deng and Bynum this summer, they will be able to go for a Kyrie Irving, King James duo that many have thought to be a legitimate possibility. Don’t be fooled. Cleveland may say they are making moves to “win now,” but “now” just means “next year” in the mind of Dan Gilbert. The Cavs will try hard to bring back James this summer, and the trade for Deng just further ignites that idea.