Reports: Minnesota Timberwolves showing interest in veteran Luol Deng

The Minnesota Timberwolves may soon ramp up their pursuit of former All-Star forward Luol Deng.

According to The New York Times‘ Marc Stein (via Twitter) and Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter), the Wolves have eyes for the 14-year NBA veteran. Stein reports the Wolves plan to pursue Deng, who cleared waivers and became a free agent earlier this week. Charania reports the team and Deng will meet within the next week to discuss a potential deal.

Last week, the Los Angeles Lakers waived Deng, just over two years after signing him to a four-year, $72 million free-agent contract.

The Lakers didn’t disclose the details of a probable buyout with Deng, but they announced the move on the first day in which the final season of Deng’s mammoth deal could be stretched over a three-season span of the Lakers’ cap limit.

Although Deng was the Lakers’ highest-paid player last season, he essentially wasn’t part of the team. He appeared in the season opener before dropping out of the rotation and eventually spending long stretches away from the Lakers. He played in one game last season, scoring two points in 13 minutes. In 2016-17, Deng played in 56 games (with 49 starts), averaging 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in 26.5 minutes per game.

Deng’s best years in the NBA came when he was a member of the Chicago Bulls playing under coach Tom Thibodeau — who is now the Timberwolves coach. Minnesota already has some Thibodeau-era Bulls on its roster, including guards Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose as well as forward Taj Gibson. Deng played for the Bulls from 2004-14 before being traded by Chicago to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The two-time All-Star Deng felt he didn’t fit well into Lakers coach Luke Walton’s up-tempo system, and he apparently declined to rejoin the rotation when the Lakers were slowed by injuries. He requested a buyout or a trade, but the Lakers found no takers and didn’t want to absorb the salary-cap constraints of waiving him last season.

Deng’s departure and contract stretch should sharply increase the Lakers’ available cap room by roughly $12 million for next summer, when they hope to add a second superstar on a maximum contract to join LeBron James.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.