We've explained how the Washington Wizards could sign some free agents if they so choose. Now, let's take a look at some of them. We'll shy away from the big big names like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, since y'all know about them. Next up: Luol Deng.
PREVIOUSLY: Greg Monroe.
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Type: Unrestricted free agent.
Last year was ____: A little scary. Deng's value is in his consistency -- he always plays hard, defends the best men on the other team and is good for 15-20 points while running off the same kind of offensive actions. But after being traded to the Cavaliers at midseason, the former Bull started to show his age a bit. His shooting efficiency went down, his free-throw rate dipped considerably and he was a much smaller part of the offense. The Cavaliers already had plenty of perimeter offense with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, so Deng had to space the floor more and wait for his opportunities, which doesn't suit his game. Defensively, he wasn't quite the same, as he adjusted from Tom Thibodeau's zone overload scheme to Cleveland's more aggressive one.
The question is whether this is the start of a decline or a half-year blip that can be attributed to a midseason trade to a bad team. Deng was having a very strong season prior to the trade, though the Bulls weren't experiencing a ton of success. Determining which half-season is closer to the real Deng is tricky: the Bulls certainly maximized his strengths, but the mess in Cleveland, combined with the timing of the deal, also made him look worse than he probably is.
Why he'd fit in well in D.C.: Trevor Ariza was great last season, but he doesn't have Deng's track record. Deng is one of the league's best perimeter defenders, can do far more offensively than Ariza and will likely improve as a spot-up shooter with John Wall feeding him shots. His ability to run off screens diversifies Randy Wittman's playbook, which ideally relies on two wing players capable of being interchangeable in the team's sets. His professionalism will also rub off younger players, most notably Otto Porter.
Why he won't: For one thing, Deng is an old 29. He's played over 24,000 regular-season minutes and nearly 2,000 playoff minutes, many of which for the league's most intense coach. How much does his body have left?
For another, he's not the shooter Ariza is, nor is he the runner. The latter is important: one of Ariza's best values is that he can run the break with Wall and spot up along the perimeter. Deng is durable and can hold up for long stretches, but he's not as used to running the wing on the break, since he's played for slow-paced clubs. He could adjust, but we know this is a strength of Ariza and Martell Webster.
Finally, is it worth pouring so much money to the small forward position with Porter waiting in the wings? The same concern about paying Ariza applies even more to Deng, since he'll likely cost more.
Likely price tag: I suspect it'll take at least $10 million a year.
Verdict: Nah. Deng's only value is as a backup plan if Ariza and Marcin Gortat go elsewhere, and even then, I'd have concerns about the minutes he's logged over the years.