By nature, I am someone who tries to see the good in players. As someone who is constantly examining team building and roster construction I cannot ignore player weaknesses, but those truths must be mixed with what a player does well to paint a full picture. Then, the ultimate goal, is to build a roster which can simultaneously cover up as many of its players’ weaknesses while optimizing as many of their strengths. This is how you get a team that can produce at a level that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Thinking about this brings me to Luol Deng. We don’t need to re-legislate the past, but Deng is overpaid. That happened the second he signed his deal in July 2016. He makes roughly $18 million a year and did not produce on the court at a level approaching that this past season. Deng posted a PER of 10.1 and had an Offensive Real Plus Minus of -1.51 (which ranked 50th among all small forwards in the league). Not promising, especially in the first year of his contract.
These don’t paint a good picture for Deng and his future on the Lakers. However, the contract he signed last summer gives the Lakers limited options in terms of finding an adequate solution for all sides. I mean, realistically, they could do one of the following four things this summer/heading into next season:
- Waive him outright.
- Waive him using the stretch provision.
- Trade him.
- Bench him permanently/make him a fringe rotation player.
Actually, there’s a fifth option too. But we’ll get to that in a second. Of the four above, I’d argue none of those will actually happen this summer.