Free Agency is turning out to be a very complicated time for the Miami Heat, who are very much interested in making an offer for Luol Deng, previously of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls, but are in the dark at the moment about how much they can offer a player who isn’t willing to give anyone a discount to his market value.
The problem for the Miami Heat is being connected with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Sure, there are worse problems to have, but their secrecy and indecision about their next step might turn out to be a disaster for the Miami Heat. Pat Riley doesn’t know how much he can offer free agents without knowing the salaries, if he actually manages to re-sign any of the trio that led the team twice to the NBA title in 2012 and 2013.
Deng is picking up interest from more than just the Heat. The Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers and even the Chicago Bulls, who traded Deng last season to the Cleveland Cavaliers, have been in touch with Deng or his agent through the last few days. The All-Star small forward is valued by certain at GMs at around $10 million a season, and it doesn’t seem like playing for a team with championship intentions is enough to make him take a pay cut.
Deng, who has been with the Bulls since 2003, was traded last season along with his $14 million salary to the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a cap clearing move for the Bulls, intending to free it up so they can make a play for Carmelo Anthony. LeBron James also became available, but even if they amnesty Carlos Boozer, the Bulls don’t have the cap space to offer them a maximum salary, only slightly less.
Deng didn’t do very well with Cavs, an orginization he complained about more than once during his short stay. The coaching, the practice, the facilities – everything seemed sub-par for him after a decade in Chicago, a team he never wanted to leave. Now, like Kirk Hinrich, he might be coming back through the back door, although it’s interesting to see what the Bulls offer him: The negotiations over a new contract broke down because the Bulls didn’t want to pay him around $10-11 million that Deng and his agent wanted.
Deng prefers the Heat at the moment, that’s quite clear. But the uncertainty around their situation and especially the future of the Bosh-James-Wade trio makes it impossible for Riley to promise anything to anyone. All the talks with free agents are preliminary, nothing more. Until he gets word from his main assets about what they’re intending to do and for how much, the Heat are in limbo, which might end up hurting them.