As a 10-year veteran, even one only experienced playing for one NBA franchise, Luol Deng should be expected to make a fairly seamless adjustment to the Cavaliers, for whom he will make his debut Friday night in Utah.
After all, Cleveland's most obvious weakness is small forward--no offense to the likes of Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee--and with the young backcourt of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and sixth man Dion Waiters most heavily criticized for their lack of ball movement and emphasis on one-on-one play, Deng's cutting game, ability to knock down open shots and prowess on the defensive end of the court will provide a huge boost for a squad in need of stability. Whether that's enough to propel his new team into the playoffs remains to be seen, but even at 12-23 on the season, it's a gamble the Cavs' front office clearly felt was worthwhile, especially in the moribund Eastern Conference.
But it will be somewhat of a balancing act, as the franchise must also make a positive impression on Deng, as the hope is he's more than a half-season rental and signs a long-term contract extension with the Cavaliers as a free agent in the offseason. Now that he's in Cleveland, the Cavs are able to not only attempt to convince the All-Star small forward that remaining with them in the Central Division is a good decision for his future, but financially, they'll be able to make it worth his while.
Both and Deng and Herb Rudoy, one of his representatives, have told various outlets that reports of asking the Bulls for $15 million per season were false and though the team's reported three-year, $30-million last-minute, take-it-or-leave-it offer was rejected, the South Sudan native might have accepted a $10 million-per-season deal--with another year thrown in--if the organization had offered it last summer. Of course, no offer was made, so that's just informed speculation and now that he will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent come July, Deng could command a $12-million annual salary or better with several teams interested in acquiring his services and the likes of fellow All-Star small forwards LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony expected to remain in Miami and New York, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Bulls will attempt to move on from the era of the franchise's fourth-leading all-time scorer--long-time teammate Joakim Noah seems to be having the most problems accepting reality, having declined comment to the media since Deng's trade was announced--and while de facto replacement Cartier Martin, a journeyman swingman signed to a 10-day contract to add a league-minimum 13 players to the roster, won't be able to fill the void alone, young wings Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell (and for the time being, veteran sharpshooter Mike Dunleavy Jr.) will be given the opportunity to fill their now divisional rival's shoes.