The Miami Heat have agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract with free agent forward Luol Deng, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The deal includes a player option for the second year, allowing Deng to potentially re-enter the market next summer after a year in South Beach.
With the departure of LeBron James earlier this week, Deng will likely take over as the starting small forward in Miami in 2014-15. He's coming off an up-and-down year after being traded midseason from Chicago to Cleveland, but gives the Heat a reliable veteran as the team looks to reload without its superstar centerpiece.
After signing Chris Bosh to a max-level deal, with Dwyane Wade likely re-upping as well, it appears Pat Riley is looking to have the Heat back in the Eastern Conference mix fairly quickly. While Deng obviously can't replace LeBron in pretty much any way, he's a significant upgrade from fellow addition Danny Granger and comes with minimal risk on a short-term deal.
Last season, Deng averaged 16 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game over 63 games with the Bulls and Cavaliers, although his numbers dropped significantly after the midseason trade. The veteran never quite fit with the younger Cavs and seemed like a sure bet to leave through free agency this summer.
Deng had several suitors this offseason, including the Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks, but the Heat immediately became a strong fit once LeBron left. The only other obvious option on the market, Trevor Ariza, signed with the Houston Rockets on Saturday, leaving Riley with even fewer options.
And while this is obviously a losing offseason for Miami with LeBron departing, the Heat won't exactly be bottom feeders next season. With a lineup featuring Bosh, Deng, Josh McRoberts and potentially Wade, Miami would be a likely playoff team next season.