Luol Deng hits free agency, Timberwolves already reportedly in pursuit

Getty Images

Chicago Wolves.

No, it’s not the latest addition to NBC’s all-Chicago Wednesday night lineup, it’s what Tom Thibodeau is doing to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’s getting the band back together. He traded for Jimmy Butler (who sources around the league are convinced will not be back with the team next season), added Taj Gibson, and scooped up Derrick Rose.

Soon you can probably add Luol Deng to the list, with Marc Stein of the New York Times and Shams Charnia of The Athletic confirming the rumors.

This is about as surprising as President Donald Trump not liking Nike’s new advertising campaign. Thibodeau trusts what he knows, even when he shouldn’t.

The Timberwolves start Gibson at the four and have Anthony Tolliver behind him, they have open roster spots and a slot as a backup four available (how many minutes would depend on if Thibodeau is going to trust his bench and not run his starters into the ground… so probably not many).

Deng needs to prove he can still play well enough to deserve those minutes. He played 13 minutes in the Lakers’ first game last season and sat the next 81. Part of that was the Lakers focusing on a youth movement (and this season Deng was squeezed by the roster numbers at the four), but likely not all of it. Two seasons ago with the Lakers he played in 56 games he struggled with the lowest point total of his career (7.6 per game), he shot just 30.9 percent from three, had a true shooting percentage of just 47, a PER of 10.1, and was below a replacement level player in the league. Was that injuries, or is father time winning the race (with a guy Thibodeau ground down with minutes in Chicago)? Can Deng still give a team 15 solid minutes a night of defense, rebounding, and a few buckets?

Minnesota is probably about to find out.