Pat Riley and the rest of the Miami Heat organization were extremely busy on Sunday, signing and re-signing a litany of players to help fill the void that LeBron James left. Their most notable move was signing 11-year veteran Luol Deng to fill the starting small forward spot. No player in the league can replace James in terms of productivity, but what Deng offers on a nightly basis could be enough to offset James’ departure.
Much of the Heat’s success with Deng will be based on how well Chris Bosh adjusts to being the number one option of offense. But if Deng can average anywhere near his career averages of 16 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists, his signing will be deemed a success. Deng is also a top-notch defender, who will fit right into the defensive rotations and schemes implored by Coach Erik Spoelstra. To top it all off, Deng played the second highest minutes on average as a starting small forward last season, even averaging more than James. Durability is key here, and Deng has fit that billing so far throughout his 11-year career.
Riley hasn’t settled for falling into rebuild mode since James’ departure. This is clearly evident by his aggressiveness in the free agency market since Friday, with the Deng signing being the best move thus far. The Heat also chose to bring back both Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen, primarily for familiarity sake in not shaking up the roster. The Heat organization has enough to deal with in replacing James’ productivity, but Luol Deng represented one of the best options on the free agent market at the small forward position. The Heat are fortunate to have signed him to such a short and moderate two-year, $20 million contract.
With the Eastern Conference being what it is, the Heat have a very good chance of making it back to the NBA Finals, even playing against a James led Cleveland Cavaliers team. How Coach Spoelstra and the rest of the Heat offense and defense adjust will be key to that proclamation, but Luol Deng will be a major component of what the Heat utilize going forward.