With Luol Deng’s contract having been bought out by the Los Angeles Lakers, reports have suggested that there are several teams that might be interested in signing the 33-year-old forward as a free agent. According to a new tweet from The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski, one of those teams might be the Minnesota Timberwolves, whose head coach and president of basketball operations, Tom Thibodeau, has been known to sign or trade for players whom he worked with when he was coaching the Chicago Bulls.
As documented by SB Nation, Thibodeau’s penchant for surrounding himself with ex-Bulls started almost from the time he was hired by the Timberwolves in April, 2016. While he started out by signing his former Bulls assistant coaches and reserve guard John Lucas III, Thibodeau and the Timberwolves notably traded for Jimmy Butler in June, 2017, with Minnesota giving up guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and the rights to seventh overall pick Lauri Markkanen. Power forward Taj Gibson was then signed the next month, while former NBA MVP Derrick Rose was claimed off the waiver wire in March, giving Thibodeau three key players from the Chicago Bulls teams he coached from 2010 to 2015.
But would Luol Deng make it four players from Tom Thibodeau’s old Bulls lineups playing together in Minnesota? ESPN’s Chris Haynes specified on Saturday that Deng is likely to receive interest from “contending” teams. Fansided likewise speculated that the Timberwolves, who made this year’s playoffs with a 45-37 record, might be one of them, given the fact that Deng spent his first 10 NBA seasons in Chicago, including the 2010 to 2014 seasons with Thibodeau as head coach.
“The recruiting calls from current Timberwolves (and past Thibodeau-Bulls) Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose have surely already started on the news he’s been bought out,” wrote Fansided’s Brad Berreman.
ESPN Sources: Luol Deng, Los Angeles Lakers agree to buyout and the upcoming free agent expected to receive interest from contending teams. https://t.co/93J8dP3kc3— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) September 1, 2018
While Berreman suggested that Luol Deng’s lackluster performance with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he averaged only 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in the 2016-17 season and played only one game in the season after, might be an aberration due to the Lakers’ recent focus on youth, he also warned that the veteran forward’s durability could be a concern. As pointed out by Berreman, Deng missed at least seven games in the five seasons after he first played for Thibodeau, which might have been a result of the coach’s “notorious tendency” to give too many minutes to his starters.
Regardless of whether Luol Deng is able to return to his old form or not, a move to the Minnesota Timberwolves would likely have him coming off the bench for small forward Andrew Wiggins or Gibson, who started all 82 games at power forward for the Timberwolves after joining the team last year. He is, however, a former All-Defensive selection and two-time All-Star with career averages of 15 points and 6.1 rebounds in 14 NBA seasons.