Jimmy Butler consistently credited Luol Deng (and Adrian Griffin) for helping him through tough rookie season. Deng consistently credited Tom Thibodeau for helping him reach All-Star potential. Now, save for Griffin, they’re reunited, with Rose and Taj to boot.
The question is what does Deng bring to the table? He played a total of 13 minutes for the Lakers last season. Two seasons ago in Los Angeles he played in 56 games and was unimpressive, shooting just 30.9 percent from three, with a true shooting percentage of just 47, and a PER of 10.1. Part of that was Luke Walton played him at the three, and in today’s NBA Deng is a four.
If given room can he still hit his jumper? He can put the ball on the floor against a closeout, he cuts well off the ball and finds spaces, and he’s a decent team defender — all of that when healthy. Is he healthy and rested and can he pitch in significant minutes, or is Deng another former Thibodeau player who burned out early after heavy minutes for years?
The Timberwolves likely will start Gibson at the four and have Anthony Tolliver behind him, leaving Deng a limited role. Thibodeau doesn’t really go deep into his bench.
Report: Luol Deng expected to sign with Minnesota this week
The question is how much Deng can contribute. He was benched in Los Angeles during season one of the Lakers’ youth movement last season, but still some veterans got run under Luke Walton while Deng sat the final 81 games of the season. Two seasons ago in Los Angeles he played in 56 games and finished with the lowest point total of his career (7.6 per game), shooting just 30.9 percent from three, with a true shooting percentage of just 47, a PER of 10.1, and he was below a replacement level player. Was that season’s decline an aberration, or has Deng (like other former Tom Thibodeau players) worn down earlier in their career than expected?
There’s not a ton of minutes for Deng to get. The Timberwolves likely will start Gibson at the four and have Anthony Tolliver behind him. Thibodeau doesn’t really go deep into his bench beyond that.
But the deal looks like it will soon be done, and then we’ll see what Deng still has in the tank.
Luol Deng hits free agency, Timberwolves already reportedly in pursuit
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.
The Wolves have launched their planned pursuit of @LuolDeng9, league sources say, after the veteran forward became a free agent by clearing waivers earlier this week
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.
Rumor: Timberwolves have interest in both Luol Deng, Joakim Noah
We have speculated for some time that Thibodeau could be interested in grabbing two former stalwarts of his old Bulls roster, which makes sense given that Minnesota already has Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler.
According to The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski, it appears that the Timberwolves might be looking to add Deng, Noah, or both should they be available.
Reported earlier in the summer that Wolves would have interest in Deng and/or Noah should they become available. That hasn’t changed. https://t.co/xiFGXBDgsO
Along with rumors of a growing rift between Butler and star big man Karl-Anthony Towns, this potential roster shake-up adds to the growing concern that the Timberwolves are much like watching a car wreck in slow motion. There is no clear benefit seen from adding players who weren’t able to get over the hump in the Eastern Conference half a decade ago to a team with locker room troubles.
And while some teams will choose to sit out the Golden State Warriors’ run in the Western Conference, adding old Bulls to this roster is not exactly what folks in Minnesota will be hoping for if the team decides to take radical action to beat Golden State — and the rest of the teams out West — moving forward.
If the Timberwolves do this, there’s only one move left to make: Kirk Hinrich.
Report: Timberwolves pull Nemanja Bjelica’s qualifying offer, signing Anthony Tolliver for $5M-$6M
Depending on the exact terms of Tolliver’s contract, the Timberwolves might now be in line to pay the luxury tax. However, they have until the final day of the regular season to trim salary. Whatever their willingness to spend, they clearly didn’t want Bjelica accepting his $4,937,499 qualifying offer and adding to their payroll.
The 33-year-old Tolliver is better than Bjelica, and that’s what drove this. Tolliver is a good 3-point shooter with an improved ability to attack closeouts. He defends hard, though his mediocre athleticism limits him on that. He’ll take Bjelica’s place as Minnesota’s stretch four behind Taj Gibson.
Tolliver will also provide a unifying voice in what can be a tense locker room that just lost Jamal Crawford and Cole Aldrich. Tolliver is well-respected by his peers, and that’s part of his value.
Bjelica should find suitors on the open market. He’s a capable stretch four with a decent all-around game. After just three seasons in the NBA, he’s already 30, though.
The best part of this sequence: A chance to post this video of Michael Beasley rubbing the wrong knee – Tolliver’s – during Tolliver’s first stint with the Timberwolves: