Luol Deng: Elephant in the Room?

Luol Deng is a solid veteran and solid guy.  14th season.  A two-time all-star.  A guy the Lakers have sought before and end up getting “now” on a young team with perhaps multiple budding all-stars.

Was Deng an insurance policy?  A mentor to the young Lakers? Was he acquired 3 or 4 years later than ideal considering his NBA age?

He certainly reaped full benefit and reward of the Lakers not fetching an upper tier NBA Free Agent, yet again, so they opted to pay Deng the $18 or so Million over the next four years.

Recently, in an interview with Mike Bresnahan, Deng said,

“I have never been a volume guy.  My role on this team is something different for me.  It is something I am not used to.  I need more minutes to produce.”

Deng ended last season with Miami averaging  12.3 points and 6.0 REB, just slight fractions above his rookie season in 2004-5.  Deng played 32.4 minutes per game last season.

This season, Deng is playing 24.2 minutes per game with averages of 6.6 and 5.4.

So, stars seemed to align with Luol’s wishes as three Lakers were “out” in the last contest with Golden State:   D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Nick Young.  With all that fire power out this meant that not only did other guys have to step up but that there might be increased opportunity for players like Deng.

Unfortunately, Deng looked lethargic.  He played 22 minutes, had 4 points on 2-9 shooting, Had 4 REB, and 4 Assists.

Whether it was his overall “play” or effort that saw him (Deng) sit more in the second half or Coach Walton wanting to give more reps to other guys, we saw Thomas Robinson capture 15 minutes of PT.  Walton may have been rewarding Robinson for HIS effort.  He brought energy and hustle (as he generally does) that no one on the Lakers was providing.

Robinson ended up with 6 points (3-8 FG), 10 REB (3 OFF), 1 block and 1 steal.

If we are playing “money ball:”

 Thomas Robinson 2016-17: $1,050,961.

     Luol Deng 2016-17: $18,000,000.

Thomas Robinson forced the Lakers this season to make the tough decision to drop players like draft pick Anthony Brown

So, on a (young) Team where guys like Huertas, Tarik Black, Larry Nance and now Thomas Robinson make the most of their limited minutes, why is it that Deng, seemingly, cannot?  Even Jose Calderon who’s playing time is few and far, maximizes his efforts in his very limited role and he is a veteran like Luol.

Deng’s Contract is for FOUR YEARS at $72 Million with no options.

Trade Rumors (there always IS in LA LA Land):

There might be “rumblings” of a trade but the $18M with limited productivity, should this persist, will make it difficult to “move the contract.”

Look for teams wanting one of the young studs in order for the Lakers to “get out” of the deal.

And, the Lakers will more than likely have to absorb another team’s perceivably “bad contract”

Until then…

If Deng keeps playing and “producing” like he has, we will be seeing more frustration from him like we did last game when he was on the bench.




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