The Cavaliers tried to make the playoffs this year — honest. They were active in free agency before it began, and when those moves didn’t pan out, they ditched Andrew Bynum midseason and traded for Luol Deng, without any assurances that he’d be willing to re-sign once his contract was up at the conclusion of the regular season.
Deng reportedly didn’t like what he saw during his short time in Cleveland — between the locker room issues and the lack of control from then head coach Mike Brown, he wasn’t interested in even considering the Cavaliers as a free agent destination.
The feeling might have been mutual.
From Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal (via WFNY):
Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that the Cavs could increase their chances of retaining free agent Luol Deng should they hire [former Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin] to be their coach, but the Cavs tried trading Deng at the trade deadline three months ago and haven’t expressed much interest in bringing him back.
Deng is undoubtedly an All-Star talent, but a more subtle one if that makes any sense. He isn’t the type to anchor a team, but he would be an excellent veteran piece to solidify a winning situation that’s already in place.
If the Cavaliers are going to spend what Deng will likely cost in free agency, they need to get an impactful player in return for committing those salary cap dollars. Deng reportedly had zero interest in re-signing in Cleveland, so the team not pursuing him is likely a function of that, along with considerations of how that money could be better spent on players more likely to compliment the roster as it’s currently constructed.