After Luol Deng and the Lakers came to an agreement over a buyout, the expectation was that Deng’s former coach Tom Thibodeau, now head coach and president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves, would come calling about adding Deng to the team.
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Things appear to be picking up on that front, as Darren Wolfson of Eyewitness News is reporting (via Twitter) that Deng and Thibodeau are indeed meeting today. After signing Derrick Rose last season and reuniting with Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson during the 2017 offseason, Thibodeau has shown interest in bringing several former Bulls to the Timberwolves, especially if they can help the team on the defensive end.
Having signed a four-year, $72MM contract with the Lakers in the 2016 offseason, Deng appeared in just 57 games for the team over the past two seasons. He was shut down and kept on the bench for the remainder of the 2017/18 season after playing in the Lakers’ opener, a decision that reflected the team’s focus on its young players.
Deng, now 33 years old, was considered a strong defender when playing under Thibodeau with the Bulls. After struggling with his shot during the initial stages of his career, he developed into a reliable shooter, establishing himself as a strong 3-and-D wing in his prime years, during which he made two All-Star teams. It remains to be seen how much Deng can provide in either area at this point in his career, but Thibodeau appears interested in adding a veteran presence to the locker room that is familiar with his coaching style and defensive execution.
The Timberwolves continue to seek help on defense, as they finished 22nd on that end of the floor last season. Coming off the team’s first playoff appearance since 2004, Thibodeau is looking to improve on the defensive end in order to secure another spot in the playoffs.
So far this offseason, the Wolves have added Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop through the draft and two forwards in Anthony Tolliver and James Nunnally through free agency, in addition to re-signing Rose.