It is well known that Luol Deng never wanted to leave the Chicago Bulls. The two-time All-Star spent his first nine seasons in the NBA with the Bulls and was an integral part of the formula to the rebuilding of the Chicago franchise.
But in the midst of the grind last season (again without star guard Derrick Rose), the Bulls and Deng’s agent were not able to agree on a number to extend the All-Star forward’s time in Chicago. Inevitably, the Bulls were forced to move Deng mid-season for next-to-nothing in return. It was a move that enraged coach Tom Thibodeau, players and fans alike — and as they should have been. Deng was in the midst of his best statistical season of his career and was leading the Bulls’ charge up the standings in January.
After his departure from Chicago, Deng struggled to find his way with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The career best pace he set through the first five months of the season fell off and with it his open market stock dropped. Eventually, Deng signed with the Miami Heat this summer after the departure of LeBron James to Cleveland.
But the underlying fact that could and should haunt Deng throughout the rest of his career is that he accepted a contract with the Heat that was virtually the same dollar amount per year that the Bulls were offering him mid-season through an extension.
Just think about that. Deng and his agent virtually turned down a deal that would have had Deng playing on the front-runner in the Eastern Conference with an MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year and two future all-defensive team players. Instead, he’ll be replacing the best player in the world on a team that is trying to keep a contender together whose best player is Chris Bosh. That makes no financial or basketball sense whatsoever.
What’s worse is that the Bulls looked to have already moved on with the improvement of Tony Snell, the drafting of Doug McDermott and bringing in Nikola Mirotic from Spain. And now Deng will have to watch this team succeed from South Beach.
As a Deng supporter, I wish him the best of luck with the Heat and hope he has a great season. But part of me feels bad for the guy that a demand of a measly $3 million per year extra cost him a chance at an NBA Championship.