The Wizards’ offseason was always going to be something of a letdown after Kevin Durant and Al Horford said no to the Wizards’ offers, but it’s only hurt more considering their top signing, Ian Mahinmi, has only played one game since he signed his four-year, $64 million deal.
Given how quickly the Wizards signed Mahinmi after Horford announced he would sign with the Celtics, it made it feel like he was always set up to be Plan C this summer. However, that might not be the case. According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, the Wizards may have initially had their eyes set on Luol Deng before the Lakers surprised everyone by offering him a four year, $72 million deal:
The disastrous deals for Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng will make it hard for the Lakers to fit even one max-level deal signed after 2017, and almost impossible to absorb two. (The Lakers badly overpaid for Deng; Washington had traction with Deng on a three-year deal worth $20 million less overall than L.A. ended up paying, and was stunned to learn of L.A.'s offer, according to several league sources.)
As a three year, $52 million deal, Deng would have been worth nearly as much as Ian Mahinmi on an annual basis, which means the Wizards wouldn’t have been able to sign both of them this summer unless Mahinmi had taken a discount. Even then, it would have made it difficult for Washington to sign many other impact players before they went over the cap.
So the fun hypothetical here is: Would you rather have Deng or Mahinmi? Even if you take out Mahinmi’s recent knee issues, I think you can make a case that Deng could have been the better fit. He would have given the team more versatility as another guy who can shift from the 3 to the 4 spot as needed, and his deal would have expired at the end of the 2018-19 season, at the same time many of the team’s current contracts expire, including those of John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre, and Tomas Satoransky.
Then again, if Deng is on the team, then Porter doesn’t get as many minutes as a stretch four, where he’s been very effective this season. And if Porter is stuck at the three, then Kelly Oubre doesn’t have as many chances to get on the floor, which would have stunted the team’s long-term development.
Either way, I think we can all agree signing Deng at the price the Lakers signed him for would have been a disastrous move, so let’s just be thankful that didn’t happen.