The NBA free-agent period doesn't start until July 1st, but with the trade deadline passing Thursday, the rumor mill has already started turning out stories about free-agents-to-be and possible next destinations for them. New York Daily News writer Mitch Lawrence published one such item Saturday regarding veteran swingman Luol Deng, whom the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired from the Chicago Bulls on January 6th.
According to Lawrence, Deng will leave the Cavaliers "no later than a minute past midnight" once the free-agent period begins. He lists the Orlando Magic as a team that is "interested" in signing the two-time All-Star.
Deng, who turns 29 in April, has averaged 15 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game since the Cavs traded for him. Though shooting just 41.6 percent from the floor overall, the 6-foot-8 Duke product has connected on a respectable 37.7 percent of his triples in Cleveland wine and gold.
Orlando has several prospects who can man the small-forward spot, among them Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris, but its rumored interest in Deng makes sense when one considers the premium its management places on veteran leadership and character. In the 2006/07 season, Deng earned the NBA's Sportsmanship Award--an honor which the league's players vote to bestow--and he has finished in the top-three in balloting for that award on two other occasions.
The Magic figure to have some salary-cap space in the summer of 2014. According to ShamSports' salary database, Arron Afflalo will be the only Magic player guaranteed more than a rookie-scale salary in the 2014/15 season. Jameer Nelson could become the second if Orlando elects to fully guarantee his $8 million salary.
After Cleveland acquired Deng, Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Deng had previously turned down Chicago's three-year contract extension worth $30 million, which rejection prompted the Bulls to cut ties with the former seventh-overall Draft pick.