There is a certain forward available on the free agent market that the Boston Celtics may be competing with a number of teams for, including their Eastern Conference foe, the Miami Heat.
Sure, we all know about Kevin Durant, but I'm actually talking about Luol Deng. The 31-year old isn't in that elite tier at the top of the free agency crop, but the former All-Star would be a solid alternative for those teams that lose out on the Durant sweepstakes or are merely looking for a cheaper alternative.
Darren Wolfson from ABC 5 Minneapolis reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves were among the teams expected to call Deng shortly after free agency opened at midnight, along with a handful of other teams that included the Celtics.
Other teams in addition to #Twolves to call on Deng tonight: Boston, Miami, and Washington. Utah expected to eventually.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) July 1, 2016
Boston is a bit of a surprise suitor. They certainly have the cap space to chase multiple free agents, but they have had their eyes on bigger fish. Could Deng be the fallback plan if the Celtics aren't able to reel in Durant?
Possibly, but Deng doesn't really fit Boston's need for a go-to scorer. He has averaged 15.5 points per game in his career and is coming off a season in which produced his lowest average since his rookie year at 12.3 points per game. He can stretch the floor a bit, knocking down shots from beyond the arc at a 33.4 percent clip in his career , but he's not a knockdown shooter.
Deng is known more as a defensive-minded wing rather than one expected to help carry the offensive load. While his versatility as a perimeter stopper fits Boston's style, don't we already have a number of these types?
Perhaps the Celtics are simply kicking the tires on Deng to see if there is any interest so that they can keep their options open. Or bringing in Deng could be the first step of a larger plan. Would adding him make Avery Bradley or Jae Crowder slightly more expendable? If Ainge isn't able to land one of the big fish free agents then he'll turn back to the trade market to look for the star he seeks. One of their young wing players on a bargain contract could be a chip to acquire that star, while the Celtics would then use some of their remaining cap space to sign a defensive wing stopper like Deng to replace them.
Or this rumor may amount to nothing, as they often do. But it's interesting to see that the Celtics are wisely keeping their options open instead of putting all their eggs in the Kevin Durant or Al Horford basket.