The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Luol Deng on January 7, but he may be headed out of town as soon as this afternoon. Try to imagine a trade going worse for your team, and you may not be able to top the Deng deal for Cleveland. Multiple sources have told ESPN that the Cavs have made Deng available and are listening to offers for the All Star forward. In January, Cleveland traded Andrew Bynum and three draft picks to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng.
There are multiple factors in play as to why the Cavs are willing to part with a player they acquired a little over a month ago. First, there has been sweeping change in the Cavaliers’ front office. Chris Grant is out, and David Griffin is in, as the acting General Manager. Griffin did not make the Deng trade, so does not have a vested stake in it.
More importantly is the fact that Deng is an unrestricted free agent after this season. If Cleveland cannot sign him, Deng can sign with any team, and the Cavaliers end up with nothing to show for the trade. The Cavs, due to the NBA free agency rules, can offer Deng more money than any other team once free agency hits. Cleveland remains relatively confident that they’ll have a better than average shot at retaining Deng.
However, Deng has not hidden the fact that he isn’t overly pleased with his stay thus far in Cleveland. His numbers are slightly down, and it has been reported that he doesn’t feel as comfortable in the Cavs offensive system as he did under Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls. The Cavaliers love the intangibles that Deng brings to the team — his veteran leadership, defense, unselfishness — but are clearly afraid of losing Deng for nothing at the end of the season.
It’s not unprecedented that a player gets traded multiple times in one season, but what is odd in this scenario is the caliber of player involved. Deng is a two-time All Star, and known throughout the league as one of the classiest players and best two-way forwards in the game. These types of players are traditionally locked up by their teams. Here, Deng has a big contract, and could not agree to an extension with the Chicago Bulls. That paved the way for the initial trade. Currently, Deng and the Cavaliers don’t seem like a match made in heaven, so Luol may be moving on to team number three this season.
What team would trade for Luol Deng now — knowing that he may leave for nothing at the end of the season? It would have to be a team that has title hopes this year, and has the ability to fit Deng’s contract onto their roster. If it were possible, Deng would be a great fit with the Spurs. Stay tuned, as the NBA trade deadline is this afternoon at 3:00 pm EST. If you were the Cleveland Cavaliers, would you trade Luol Deng today?