Luol Deng's Presence Can Only Help The Wolves
The Wolves signed Luol Deng on Monday in a move that solidifies their bench and gives the team a valuable veteran presence both on the court and in the locker room.
In the NBA, the name of the game is getting guys who execute their role well. Is Deng going to average double digits this year? Probably not. Will Deng do his job in a system he knows well, offer good defense and floor spacing and provide another solid rebounder on the wing? That’s an oddly specific question I admit it, but the answer is yes.
What makes Deng’s signing particularly intriguing is that even entering his 15th season in the league, he is still a relative unknown. Deng has struggled with injuries in the last few years and has only played one game in the last year. On a Lakers team that was fully committed to developing its younger players, Deng didn’t really get a chance to see the court. However, with a full year off to rest, rehabilitate and get his body right, Deng could very well see a return to form this year.
In his 2015-16 season with the Miami Heat, Deng averaged 12.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals. He also made 1.2 threes per game on 34.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc. If Deng can even come close to matching those numbers with the Wolves this year he’ll make a difference on the court right away.
Deng also has experience being successful at the highest level. He was an All-Star in 2013 and 2014 and All-Defensive Second Team in 2012. He has played in 62 career playoff games and scored 986 playoff points.
All ‘Timberbulls’ jokes aside, this is a good move for the Wolves. It’s an early September signing that came after many of the other names were off the market, and it’s a low-risk signing for someone that will at the very least be a great presence in the locker room. Deng has had a long NBA career but he’s still just 33 years old and has the opportunity to show that he can still be productive in a clearly defined role. He knows Tom Thibodeau’s system, and there’s no doubt that he has had conversations with his old coach about what Thibs expects from him. Everyone is on the same page here.
Off the court, Deng is just a standup guy to have in the building and in the community, especially following the departure of Jamal Crawford, who served as an important veteran presence for the team last year.
"As young as I was back then, and looking back at it, I wouldn't be in the position I am without Lu," Butler said of Deng in a 2016 L.A. Times article.
Deng is active in the community and in charity work and has been an outspoken voice for refugee communities. Born in Sudan, Deng became a British citizen in 2006 and he was an Olympic ambassador for the London Olympic Games. He was also active in the earlier years of Basketball Without Borders and serves as a spokesperson for the World Food Programme. In 2014 he won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
Time will tell the impact that Deng will have on the court for the Wolves, but at the very least they are bringing in a proven leader and a proven winner in this league. That can only make this team better.