To say signing 31-year-old Luol Deng to a huge four-year, $72 million contract seemingly as soon as free agency started in summer of 2016 was a mistake could be a dramatic understatement at this point. The Lakers were a team desperate to make a splash as former general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball operation Jim Buss were hoping to save their jobs. The splash came up dry for LA.
The Lakers were able to move on from Timofey Mozgov, another summer of 2016 signee who got a huge, head-scratching deal, but it came at the cost of attaching D’Angelo Russell in a trade. Unfortunately for them, it appears they won’t be able to make a miracle happen two years in a row. They’re giving up hopes on trading Deng and now turn their attention to other cap relief efforts.
Following comes from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Los Angeles has given up hope of unloading Luol Deng’s contract in a trade, because it would simply necessitate attaching too many draft assets.
The Lakers and Deng haven’t discussed a buyout since late November, but he can simply wait until the season is over to get the full balance of the $37 million owed to him once the Lakers inevitably use the waive and stretch provision to clear salary-cap space. How could the Lakers avoid Deng’s money languishing on the cap for six years with the waive and stretch? Well, Deng would have to be so desperate to leave Los Angeles before season’s end to sign elsewhere on a minimum deal that he’d forfeit the $18.8 million on the 2019-20 season of his contract and accept a buyout. That makes little sense to do, getting just a half-season of freedom to likely play only a few minutes per game elsewhere.
Deng has played only one game this season for the Lakers after essentially being sent home back when the season started. As Wojnarowski points out, the Lakers and Deng tried to agree on a buyout earlier this season but nothing came of it. The Lakers need to move on from Deng before this summer if they still hope to sign any form of big name free agents to max contracts.