He’s Not LeBron, But Luol Deng Should Fit Nicely In Miami

For the purposes of this article, let’s just forget that Luol Deng played in Cleveland last season. Once he was traded to the Cavaliers in January in exchange for Andrew Bynum and draft picks, he was a shell of himself and never settled in Cleveland. So I’m just going to forget I ever saw Luol in wine and gold and focus on what he was able to do when he was an All-Star in Chicago.

Luol DengDeng agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Heat yesterday, and ostensibly was brought in to replace LeBron James.

Okay, maybe not completely forget about it, but you get the drift. In fact, a fun comparison is to look at Deng’s numbers from his time in Chicago and in Cleveland last season and see just how stark the difference is.

Luol Deng 35 16.0 0.9 5.7 2.9 1.0 0.1 13.7 43.1 4.3 79.1 105
(CHI) 37 19.0 0.7 6.9 3.7 1.0 0.2 15.4 45.2 5.4 81.5 68
(CLE) 34 14.3 1.0 5.1 2.5 1.0 0.1 12.7 41.7 3.6 77.1 142

The first row is his combined numbers and as you can see there is a big gulf between what he did in Chicago and Cleveland. Now, he chose to be in Miami, essentially taking the place of LeBron James in the starting lineup, so there’s no reason for miserable Luol to show up. Sure, from a fantasy perspective, he’s going to playing for a slow-paced offense, but that’s exactly what things were like in Chicago, so it shouldn’t make too much difference. Sure, Tom Thibodeau played him until he could go no more, leading the league in minutes twice in the past three years, even playing through a potentially life-threatening illness at one stage in the playoffs before he needed to be hospitalized and administered a lumbar puncture. But, when James was in Miami, he played a ton of minutes and it’s not like Miami is flush with depth and his new coach Erik Spoelstra will have no hesitation in throwing out there for extended run.

As much as I like Deng’s move to Miami and think it will go a long way to keeping them competitive and in the mix for a top four seed, I’ve never like Deng as a fantasy option. His very poor field goal percentage is a killer for a small forward and he doesn’t excel in any one area. For next season, I’ll be leaving him alone, unless people think the version of Deng we saw in Cleveland is the future we’ll be seeing in Miami. If that’s the consensus, I’ll be happy to jump on Deng in the tenth or eleventh round, but anywhere before that is folly. Here’s how I think Deng’s numbers will look next season. Remember, he’ll have Chris Bosh as the number one and Dwyane Wade as the second option, but Wade will probably miss a decent chunk of games again, elevating Deng to second banana on a semi regular basis.

Luol Deng 37 15.9 1.1 6.0 3.0 1.1 0.4 14.3 43.2 4.0 78.6

If Deng could somehow hit 46 or 47 percent of his shots and get 1.5 triples a game, his value will skyrocket, easily within the top 50. History tells us that this won’t happen though. It’ll be weird seeing Deng in Miami, but it won’t be weird to see him on everyone else’s fantasy team but mine.

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