With plenty of cap space to make impact signings, the Atlanta Hawks are hoping that they won’t be overlooked by the second tier of free agents, keeping their eyes on Luol Deng who spent last season with both the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, and has probably seen his stock drop due to his ability late in the season.
Deng was traded in the middle of last season from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Chicago Bulls. Despite playing for the Bulls since 2003, the inability to reach a contract extension because Deng viewed himself as someone who deserved to be paid an eight figure salary going into the second decade in the NBA. The Bulls traded him to clear some cap space via Andrew Bynum, and Deng sunk along with the disappointing Cavs, averaging 14.3 points per game in Cleveland.
The Hawks have around $15 million in cap space. Past experiences have taught them they are not in the hunt for the likes of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Overall they have a solid group for Eastern conference standards, that is if Al Horford will rebound well from the injury that made him miss most of last season and almost cost the Hawks their playoff spot before nearly stunning the Pacers in a 7-game first round series.
Deng, a Two-Time All-Star, hasn’t been making headlines since the season has ended. From being paid $14 million last season and talking about a salary of $11 million on average from this season going forth three more years, the demand for his talents as a small forward who can score (16 points per game in his career), hit shots from the outside, rebound and play some excellent defense not to forget his two All-Star appearances, he might have to settle for a lot less.
Deng is still a very good player, but there is fear that after playing only 126 games over the last two seasons, his age, wear & tear and attempt to still make a lot of money on a long term contract, he isn’t in demand as he would have been a year or two ago. Deng is still only 29, but it seems that signing him to a three or four year deal worth around $10 or $11 million a season isn’t in any team’s best in interest.
However, the Hawks aren’t a rebuilding team, nor are they a championship contender. Like all of the last six or seven years, they’re playing to make the playoffs and hopefully make it past a round. Giving Deng a long term deal with an eight figure salary doesn’t sound beneficial, but their standards and his demands might find a middle ground to meet after a few days or maybe a week of free agency pass.