The Los Angeles Lakers waived and stretched the contract of Luol Deng, who could now end up on the same squad as several former teammates.
Deng did not fit into the youth movement in Los Angeles, which is one reason why he didn’t receive playing time with the Lakers. But there will be other front offices interested in signing the two-time NBA All-Star.
According to ESPN’s Chris Haynes, the veteran forward will “command interest from several contenders” now that he is a free agent. One of those teams is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who narrowly snuck into the playoffs last season.
Tom Thibodeau, who coached the Chicago Bulls from 2010 through 2015, currently serves as the head coach and president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves. Thibs previously coached Deng in Chicago.
If the Wolves signed Deng, the forward would join former Bulls such as Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose in Minnesota. Perhaps, then, the Wolves would also pursue former Chicago big man Joakim Noah.
The big man could have a similar fate as Deng, unlikely to see much playing time on a team built for youth. Noah, as you may recall, earned a selection on the All-NBA First Team while playing under Thibodeau in 2013-14. He was also named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Here is what beat reporter Jon Krawczynski reported about the Wolves potentially signing Noah and Deng back in June 2018 (via The Athletic):
“The Wolves will also monitor the situations for Joakim Noah and Luol Deng down the road. Both former Bulls are candidates to be bought out of their big deals and the Wolves would certainly consider bringing one of them in on a minimum deal down the road.”
Chicago finished the 2010-11 season with 62 wins and just 20 losses, earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They lost to the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals. The Bulls outscored opponents by 22.7 points per 100 possessions when Rose was on the court with Gibson, Noah and Deng during their playoff run that season.
During Butler’s rookie season the following year, Chicago outscored opponents by 12.1 points per 100 when he was on the court with Deng, Gibson and Noah.
Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2013-14 season, so the five players never shared the floor. If Minnesota does sign both Deng and Noah, it would be a blast from an alternate reality that never was — several years (and some injuries) later.
There are also two assistant coaches (Ed Pinckney and Andy Greer) who worked with the Bulls that are now on the Wolves’ coaching staff.
Pinckney has worked with Noah since the big man left to sign with the New York Knicks.