Luol Deng Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports activities

Los Angeles Lakers ahead Luol Deng believes that he isn’t executed as an NBA participant, which units up an attention-grabbing showdown between the crew and the veteran they not need.


It’s been two years because the Lakers signed Deng to his notorious contract, paying him $72 million over 4 years. It was a jaw-dropping sum for a job participant, finally turning into one in every of a handful of cautionary tales from the summer season of 2016 when cap room exploded and middle-of-the-road gamers reaped the advantages.

Deng’s deal, along with the $64 million given to Timofey Mozgov, performed a job in costing Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss their jobs on the helm of the Lakers’ basketball operations division.

After unloading Mozgov by way of commerce, the Lakers made the choice final season to shelve Deng, along with his lone look coming in a 13-minute outing on opening night time.

With the load of one of many league’s worst contracts hanging over him, Deng’s profession has been in limbo. The Lakers moved on from taking part in him once they determined to feed minutes to their younger gamers, making it clear that he’s not a part of their plans.

In a standard scenario, the Lakers would look to commerce a veteran like Deng or just waive him so he can proceed his profession elsewhere; a favor to a participant who has introduced himself with class and professionalism.

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Nonetheless, the scenario is way from regular. No crew within the league is keen to tackle Deng with out important compensation from Los Angeles, with the reported asking worth to soak up his deal this summer season being two of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart or first spherical picks.

Not surprisingly, the Lakers had been unwilling to pay such a price. Waiving Deng, the second-highest paid participant on the crew, additionally carries a heavy penalty.

Ought to they merely launch him so he can proceed his profession elsewhere, the ultimate $37 million they owe Deng over the subsequent two seasons would nonetheless sit on their books, consuming up invaluable cap area. The Lakers might stretch that quantity over the subsequent 5 seasons, which comes out to only over $7 million per 12 months, however that’s lifeless cash on the books that may’t be moved.

Maybe the Lakers would have thought of waiving and stretching Deng had Paul George determined to hitch LeBron James in signing, which might have required the crew to release extra wage cap room, however that situation by no means got here to cross.

For now, though he hasn’t stepped foot on the ground, protecting Deng on the crew at the very least preserves the potential for a future commerce, when asking costs finally drop because the time left on the contract will get smaller.

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It’s additionally doable that subsequent summer season, as an expiring contract, the $18.eight million left on his deal may very well be used for wage matching functions in a deal to land a star.

Sadly for the 33-year-old Deng, there isn’t time to waste one other season sitting on the sidelines, ready for the day when a palatable commerce materializes. Father Time is undefeated, and the sand in Deng’s basketball hourglass is rising quick.

He lately expressed his frustration with the scenario and want to play. Deng nonetheless practices with the crew, nevertheless it’s clear that the Lakers haven’t any intentions of utilizing him. One crew govt even went as far as to explain Deng as “semi-retired.”

The Lakers are well-stocked on the small ahead and energy ahead positions, the place Deng would theoretically slot in. With James, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley primarily occupying these slots, nonetheless, it’s troublesome to check a situation during which Deng earns minutes for himself even when the crew did resolve to provide him one other shot.

It seems that, at this juncture, there is just one choice doubtlessly accessible for Deng if he needs to play NBA basketball this season: a buyout. Ought to Deng provide to provide again a few of his wage in change for his freedom, maybe the Lakers may very well be persuaded to let him go.

Although, it’s not clear how a lot he must forego to ensure that the Lakers to take him up on the provide. For Los Angeles, no matter cash remained on the contract after the buyout would nonetheless depend in opposition to their cap, although they might stretch it.

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Such a transfer wouldn’t be unprecedented. Carmelo Anthony simply reached a buyout with the Atlanta Hawks after being traded there, giving again $2.four million of the $27.9 million owed to him so he might signal with the Houston Rockets as an alternative. That sum, nonetheless, most likely isn’t sufficient to get the Lakers to budge.

Final September, Dwyane Wade gave $eight million of his $23.eight million wage again to the Chicago Bulls with a view to clear the best way for him to signal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe that may be sufficient to get the Lakers to relent to having lifeless cash on their books, although even then they could be higher off ready till subsequent summer season to seek for even higher choices.

After all, for Deng to be motivated to provide again something, one other crew within the league must wish to signal him and that at present appears to be unlikely. So for now, the Lakers and Deng stay in a stalemate as his profession slips away.

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