There’s a certain Cleveland Cavaliers small forward who has reportedly been looking forward to the end of this season for some time. After recovering from a significant injury and going through a trade he didn’t want, Luol Deng is ready for what’s next, and having fallen to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games, the Dallas Mavericks are too.
The Mavericks appear to be just a couple of personnel moves away from putting themselves in a position to compete at the top of the crowded Western Conference. They have a few needs that must be satisfied in order to improve themselves, and signing a player like Deng could go a long way toward accomplishing that.
Deng is a team guy who, historically, plays winning basketball. He can score, he can create for himself and others offensively, but most importantly, he rebounds well, defends well, and has the versatility to match up effectively from the shooting guard or power forward spots. In truth, many Dallas fans likely see a slightly modified Shawn Marion when looking at Deng.
It’s well documented that the Mavericks need the most help on the defensive end of the floor, and they need to improve their rebounding on both defense and offense. Deng brings both of those aspects to the table, along with everything else he can do, and would be a treasure to most any team in the league.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, things just haven’t appeared to work out for Deng in Cleveland. Sometimes the feeling of betrayal is just too much to overcome, and it looks like one of 28 other teams will benefit from the situation.
With everything Deng has to offer, perhaps his most attractive trait is the fact that he plays team basketball — winning basketball. He takes good shots, he makes good passes, and he dials it up on defense during crunch time. He puts up good numbers, not earth-shattering numbers, but his value is increased immeasurably by his basketball IQ and selflessness.
On top of everything else, the Mavericks would do well to add a little athleticism to their rotation, and signing Deng would take care of some of that as well.
When thinking back on the Mavericks in the 2013-14 NBA season, the excruciating feeling of watching so many double-digit fourth-quarter leads slip away has to stand out more than anything. One of the most competent offensive teams in the entire league, the Mavericks tended to build big leads before stagnating on offense down the stretch, and their defense just couldn’t sustain those leads on its own.
If the Mavericks do sign Deng, when they have a big lead late in the game, Rick Carlisle will have the option of marching out a lineup featuring Deng at the shooting guard position and Marion as the small forward. Do that, and the opponent will need a lot more than luck come back. Of course, a rim-protecting big man wouldn’t hurt the cause, but I’ll address that later.
There are a number of players populating free agency this offseason, but if I’m looking at the best fits for the Mavericks realistically within the realm of possibility, Deng has to be considered amongst the top two or three options for the Mavs.
Brian Ogle is a Dallas Mavericks writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @TheOgle.