Cleveland Cavaliers Acquisition of Luol Deng is More Than Just a Season Rental

Updated: January 9, 2014

When the Cleveland Cavaliers began negotiating with other teams about a deal for beleaguered center Andrew Bynum, the general assumption was that the team was going to take back a player who likely wouldn’t remain in Cleveland after the season. With players like Pau Gasol and Richardson Jefferson rumored to be potential targets, that assumption was likely right on the money.

However, Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant didn’t acquire an aging, expiring contract for his well negotiated contract of Bynum. Instead, he went out and shocked the majority of the NBA by acquiring two-time All-Star Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls—a 28-year old smack dab in the middle of his best scoring season (19 points per game) in the prime of his career.

Sure, Deng fits the “expiring” and potential season rental portion of the argument for most people, but after hearing his remarks from his first day with the Cavaliers that is surely not his intention. When asked if Cleveland is a long-term destination, Deng stated, “I hope so,” to various members of the media at practice on Wednesday.

Deng continued answering questions regarding his pending free agency after the season, stating, “It’s something new for me and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I want to work hard, I want to fit in as much as I can and I want to turn it around.”

Jodie Valade, one of the beat reporters for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland stated, “Deng said he is “open to” negotiating an extension with the Cavaliers this season, but he’s certain to have numerous suitors when he is a free agent this summer.”

Reports surfaced this week that one of the reasons the Bulls decided to deal their franchise’s fourth-leading scorer in history was because they offered him a three-year, 30 million dollar extension, which he turned down. When asked how much they were looking for, members of the media said Deng laughed and said, “We didn’t ask for $15 million a season”.

Keeping Deng in Cleveland long-term is certainly in the plans for Grant and the Cavaliers. Grant stated, “We’re bringing him here and we’d like to keep him here long term. He’s 28 years old. We see him as part of our core and our youth moving forward. We’ll get through the season and get into those conversations at the appropriate time.”

With the only other viable options on the roster being Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee, acquiring Deng instantly upgrades the small forward position. Many thought No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett would be able to contribute at the position somewhat, but he has been a large disappointment in minimal time (10 minutes or less) this season. Meanwhile, the duo of Clark and Gee are eating up over 35 minutes per night and contributing just over nine points combined.

This is where Deng will be an absolute perfect fit, as he has a career average of 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game on 46 percent shooting from the field. When asked to do a little more with Derrick Rose out with an injury this season, Deng has stepped up to the tune of 19 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 45.2 percent shooting this season—while taking just 1.8 more shots per game than his career average.

So while many people seemingly question the Cavaliers willingness to give up a protected Sacramento Kings first-round pick and the two second-round picks acquired from Portland during this year’s draft, it was a small price to pay for a player like Deng. When you add in the fact that Deng is willing to sign an extension with the organization even before playing with the team, I think it is safe to say that Grant hit yet another home run in a trade as the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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