The Cavaliers turned their experiment with Andrew Bynum into one of the game’s top perimeter defenders this week, sending the oft-injured center and three draft picks in a trade for Luol Deng. It’s a successful deal for Cleveland, opines Jim Ingraham of The News-Herald. It will become exponentially more beneficial for the Cavs if they can convince Deng, who’s in the final year of his contract, to stay, Ingraham writes.
The Cavs and Deng’s agent, Herb Rudoy, aren’t ready to discuss an extension yet, but Rudoy said those talks will happen at some point. Deng reportedly rejected a three-year, $30MM offer from the Bulls shortly before the trade, so it’ll take more than that to keep him around. A $12-13MM range seems realistic, and Rudoy has also pointed to Andre Iguodala‘s deal with the Warriors, which has an average annual value of $12MM, as comparable to the kind of contract he feels his client deserves. Deng and Rudoy are adamant that they haven’t set the price at $15MM a year, but it looks like they might come close to that.
Cleveland, by rule, can do whatever it takes to keep Deng, since the team has his Bird rights and can give him a deal for up to the max. The Cavs surely aren’t going that high, but the question might not revolve around exactly how much the team is willing to pay him.
Deng has been used to contending for championships in Chicago, and the Cavs are a long way from those kinds of aspirations. GM Chris Grant has promising young point guard Kyrie Irving as the linchpin of his rebuilding effort, but it will take much more to get into the title hunt. Deng could wind up as the most sought-after free agent this summer if he doesn’t sign an extension and if more prominent names like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony take themselves off the market. A team with legitimate championship hopes for next season could prove more attractive, even if they don’t offer quite as much money or years as the Cavs do.
Still, Cleveland has the built-in advantage of Deng’s Bird rights and nearly four months to make an impression. An extension isn’t out of the question, so Deng, who turns 29 this spring, might not even get to free agency.
Let us know what you think Deng will decide to do, and elaborate on your thoughts in the comments.