12:35pm: Deng will meet with the Timberwolves within the next week as the two sides discuss a possible deal, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.
12:22pm: With Luol Deng officially a free agent, the Timberwolves have launched their pursuit of the veteran forward, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). While Stein doesn’t offer any specific details, it’s probably safe to assume the Wolves have at least been in touch with Deng and/or his representatives.
Minnesota’s pursuit of Deng comes as no surprise, with a report earlier this week indicating that Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau had interest in both Deng and Joakim Noah, another release candidate. Of course, both players were Bulls during Thibodeau’s time in Chicago and would be reunited with former teammates like Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson if they were to join the Wolves.
The Timberwolves, who project to have a couple regular season roster spots up for grabs, have used most of their mid-level exception, but still have their full $3.382MM bi-annual exception available. However, it’s not clear if Deng will command more than the veteran’s minimum, given his infrequent and ineffective minutes over the last two seasons.
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Deng, 33, appeared in just one game during the 2017/18 campaign for the Lakers, who opted to focus on developing their young players. In his first year in Los Angeles in 2016/17, the veteran had a more regular role, averaging 26.5 minutes per contest in 56 games. He had his worst season as a pro though, posting just 7.6 PPG and 5.3 RPG with a .387/.309/.730 shooting line.
Considering he was willing to give up $7.3MM in his buyout agreement with the Lakers, Deng appears confident that he’ll catch on with another NBA team for the 2018/19 season. It remains to be seen if Minnesota will be that team or if a handful of contenders will compete for his services.