Luol Deng is an All-Star player entering the prime of his career after one more long-term deal. The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t going to be the team that provides him with the years and money he is reportedly after. Deng declined a three-year, $30 million deal offered by the Chicago Bulls and anything in excess of that would make it difficult for the Lakers to secure the small forward.
Deng is a player any team would want, but given the Lakers current financial situation and an aging superstar, any big-money deals need to be given to future franchise players and game-winners. Deng is neither of those things.
Deng is a great player off the ball, and when paired up with a passing big man, he thrives at breaking through screens and cutting through the lane. His numbers in Chicago playing with Joakim Noah far exceeded his output in Cleveland, where he didn’t have the passer to give him the ball when he got into scoring positions on the floor. The Lakers could have the passing big if they choose to re-sign Pau Gasol, but with the money Deng wants, it’s not going to be a combination we see in Los Angeles.
The Lakers have been interested in Deng for years, and his recent high demands are a blessing in disguise. A 33-year-old Deng earning $10 million a year is not what Lakers fans have in mind for their team in four years from now. The Lakers fanbase, accustomed to winning, are coming to terms with the idea of rebuilding. Whether that rebuild comes in the form of Kevin Love or a season or two of draft picks, overpaying for declining All-Stars is not the path to go down.
The Lakers want Deng, but the front office is smart enough to know they can’t overpay to get him. Any blockbuster deals by the Lakers this season will be in the spirit of winning a championship now, and Deng doesn’t make them immediate contenders. Unless Deng fails to gain the interest he expects and has to lower his contract expectations, we won’t be seeing him in purple and gold during the 2014-15 season.