As we discussed a few months ago, The Celtics are basically going to have as much cap space as they want this summer. Most of it will be earmarked towards a max player, whether that’s Kevin Durant or Al Horford, but there’s still going to be a significant slot left over for a short-term addition.
Boston is probably going to look to sign someone to a similar deal they used on Amir Johnson last year. Overpay for the first year, but don’t guarantee the second. It’s win-win as the player gets to hit free agency again early after a one-year windfall while the Celtics get to explore the market before deciding whether or not they want to keep someone.
Deng seems like a perfect fit for that kind of contract. He’s never going to get another long-term contract after Tom Thibodeau essentially stuck him in a hamster wheel for four straight years, but he still has plenty of value to a team trying to win right now.
Boston could use a veteran backup for Jae Crowder. They were caught with their pants down when he missed time last season and they had no way to replicate his production. Deng can provide a reasonable facsimile, as he can more or less guard any position and hit a passable amount of three’s.
As for Deng, knowing that he’s never getting another long-term deal, there are worse fates than showcasing yourself on a team that’s likely going to at least make the second round next season. Brad Stevens has made far worse players look good, and as we saw in Cleveland, Deng isn’t one for cashing checks on losing squads. He’s going to want to go somewhere remotely competitive, and most of the other teams in that category are going to be otherwise occupied.
So expect Deng to wind up with a short-term deal somewhere like Boston. The Celtics just make the most sense as they’ll overpay him for the first year.
Likely Contract: One Year, $15 Million