Sunday, February 23, 2014

Luol Deng a 2014 Magic Signing?

On a day where Glen 'Big Baby' Davis has finally found a new home in the Los Angeles Clippers - stay happy and out of trouble, Glen - a new and growing Orlando Magic news story is as a result of a bullet point from a lengthy New York story:

We’re surprised the Cavs did not move Luol Deng. He’ll be gone on July 1, no later than a minute past midnight, and despite an Achilles injury that prevents him from practicing on most days, he’ll be high on everyone’s free-agent list. The Mavs, Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Charlotte are all interested. Why not stay in Cleveland? Kyrie Irving doesn’t make players around him better and Dion Waiters is a me-first player.

Wait, the Magic are supposed to be tanking again in '14-'15. Why are they looking at an All-Star small forward? Might the front office be taking my advice and realizing that the fan base can't handle a 3rd season of being bad? I like Luol Deng. 45.8 FG%, 77.3 FT%, 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.5 apg for his career. Can be a defensive main cog for a championship contender. Rookie Victor Oladipo was touted as a small Luol Deng when the Hoosier was being evaluated last summer. Acquiring the real thing would be a step in the winning direction for certain.

The problem is, Deng is looking to get paid like a superstar for more than just 2-3 seasons. The Bulls reportedly dealt Luol to Cleveland after he rejected a 3-year, $30 million extension from Chicago. So obviously Luol is seeking more pocket change. Orlando has the salary cap space to throw an 8-figured amount at Luol if they so choose to. Deng has earned the right to get paid, I'm just surprised that the Magic are rumored to be a team willing to write him that check. You already have Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, and Arron Afflalo filling that SF position. At least one of those guys has to go if you bring in Deng, and especially if the Magic want to draft Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

The possibility of an Oladipo-Afflalo-Deng-Tobias-Vucevic starting lineup would make the Magic a lock to be a playoff team with still room to grow to become an East contender. But is that what Rob Hennigan and his front office staff want to do? No one knows except for Henny and his inner circle.

So here are some extra thoughts from me.

Is Luol an Old 29-Year-Old?

That'll be the Sudanese's age come the middle of April. The Duke University product is a Cavalier for the remainder of the '13-'14 season, but there's a high level of worry in regards to the amount of minutes Deng has played. The 10-season veteran has had injury issues throughout his career that give me Mickael Pietrus flashbacks. Combine that with the fact that Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has driven Deng into the ground with a huge minutes load for several seasons, and you can understand my hesitation to want to give Deng big money for 5+ years. I'd be all for a 3-year deal at $12 million per season, but there are other suitors out there who'd out bid those figures. Plus, Hennigan has to evaluate how much money he's going to shell out in order to retain Nik Vucevic and Tobias Harris.

Luol Deng led the entire NBA in minutes per game in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons. Both seasons coincidentally were also when Deng was selected for his only All-Star Game exhibitions in his career. Excluding international play and preseason contests, Deng has over 700 games on his body from regular season and playoff action. That's more than 32-year-old Jameer Nelson.

Luol Deng's Role?

Do you want the lengthy 6'8" forward to be one of your top scoring threat, or just a defensive guy who can knock down an open shot and get to the hole on occasion? If you're choosing the latter, then you pursue Luol. Deng can't be expected to create his own shot late. That's something Orlando lacks on a consistent basis. Can you find a go-to scorer in the draft? Possibly. Would you like to have a veteran added onto the team who can already do that? If so, then Deng isn't your guy. He'd be somewhere on par with Afflalo or Tobias at best in my opinion.

The Magic already have Tobias, Vucevic, Afflalo, Oladipo, and others to pick up the scoring load. Plus, Luol is only shooting 43.6 FG% this season and is a career 33.3% shooter from 3-point range. Deng is at 41.5 FG% in his first 20 games played with Cleveland. So nothing inspiring. The average perimeter shooting could be a problem in Jacque Vaughn's system considering how much he has Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson developing 3-point shots.

What Does This All Even Mean?

It's a rumor, so most likely nothing. However, we're not even in March and I'm shocked that one of the more popular 2014 free agents is being connected to the Magic. We're several months away from signing season even beginning. I view it as Orlando indicating its desire to nabbing 1 great free agent, or 2 good ones and officially entering playoff hunting mode for the first time since Dwight Howard departed. I'm excited.

Take a look at the 2014 free agency pool. Assuming that the Magic are avoiding Miami Heat players, there isn't anyone as good on the court and off the court that would symbolize how the Orlando Magic want to represent themselves more than Luol Deng. He'd provide a valuable veteran presence of a man who carries himself properly while competing at above average rate. It's something to ponder and heavily examine once we know who the Magic acquire in the upcoming draft and if any deals will happen prior to the July 1st free agency window opening.

To conclude, Deng is a great player. But the Magic would have to overpay to acquire Luol's services most likely. It may not be wise for Orlando to do that unless they dump Jameer and Afflalo because the Magic have to focus on keeping Tobias and Vucevic long-term as well as possibly forking over money for 2 lottery draft picks this summer. In Henny We Trust.

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