Unrestricted free agent swingman Luol Deng has agreed to a four-year, $72 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical. The 31-year-old hit the open market this offseason after the conclusion of a two-year deal with the Heat that he signed in 2014.
A year ago, Deng could've hit free agency but decided to opt into the second year of his contract with Miami for $10.2 million. He started 73 of 74 games for the Heat during the regular season and averaged 12.3 points and six rebounds per game. In 14 playoff games, he averaged 13.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game before the Heat were eliminated by the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Overall, it was a year that showed Deng is very much in decline, but still useful. His length makes him a decent defender even as his athleticism wanes, and while he's never been a lockdown shooter, he shot 34.4 percent on 3.5 three-point attempts per game in 2015-16. He also hosted a barbecue, and a Luol Deng BBQ sounds like a good time even if Goran Dragic isn't bringing snacks:
Luol Deng is hosting a team barbecue tomorrow. What's Dragic bringing? "Nothing. I feed him passes."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 18, 2016
Deng's combination of solid shooting and defense should make him effective in the right role, which might involve less playing time. At his peak in 2011-12 and 2012-13 as a member of the Bulls, Deng led the league in minutes per game, a workload that's arguably helped accelerate the decline phase of his career. Last year with Miami, Deng averaged 32.4 minutes per game in the regular season and 35.4 minutes per game in the playoffs.
While he certainly used to have the legs to eat tons of playing time, and fought admirably for the Heat throughout the 2015-16 season, it was clearly a demanding role for Deng. If he can just trade a little bit of volume for some efficiency and fresher legs, the forward should be able to prolong his career in smaller roles than the ones he's filled for most of his career.