Los Angeles Lakers Not Getting Their Money’s Worth in Luol Deng

LOS ANGELES — Most teams were flush with spending power when the NBA's salary cap jumped from $70 million to $94.1 million in July.

The Los Angeles Lakers hit the summer with new head coach Luke Walton, the second pick in the draft (Brandon Ingram) and a cadre of young, talented players like D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. Yet they still had enough space under the salary cap to sign two maximum-salaried free agents.

L.A. had hoped it would receive an audience with players like Kevin Durant, Hassan Whiteside and DeMar DeRozan. But after striking out with the stars, the Lakers spent their free-agent money on veterans Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov and, via trade, Jose Calderon. They also reinvested in Jordan Clarkson, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal.

Clarkson has been one of the Lakers' best players this season. Mozgov, at $64 million over four years, has been a serviceable starting center, scoring 8.4 points a game while shooting 57.5 percent from the field. Calderon was brought over from the Chicago Bulls, along with two second-round picks. His $7.7 million expiring contract isn't a long-term concern.

It's the Deng signing, at $72 million over four years, that has stood out for all the wrong reasons.

The 31-year old forward is the only Laker to start every night this season, but he's shooting a career-low 34.1 percent from the field. He's scoring only 6.8 points a game on 7.5 attempts. The Lakers' best defensive lineup features Brandon Ingram at small forward and Larry Nance Jr. at the 4, not Deng.

Earning $18 million this year, Deng the team's highest-paid player. And he's the least-efficient regular contributor.

While Mozgov was signed to fill an area of need at center, the Lakers gave Deng a long-term deal to play the same position as Ingram, who should be the team's starter at small forward by next season (if not sooner).<...

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