The Wolves added another of coach Tom Thibodeau’s former Chicago Bulls, signing free-agent Luol Deng on Monday.
He will get a one-year, $2.4 million deal — the veteran’s minimum — from the Wolves.
Deng recently reached a contract settlement with the Los Angeles Lakers on the final two remaining years of a massive $72 million contract he signed in summer 2016. That made him an unrestricted free agent and he chose to reunite with his former coach from Chicago. The Wolves tried to sign him in 2016, but offered a two-year deal compared to the Lakers’ four.
Now 33, he played little those first two seasons — particularly last season when he played in just one game — even though he was healthy. The Lakers were committed to a youthful rebuilding process that put him on the sidelines despite his big salary.
He joins former Bulls teammates Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose and gives the Wolves another two-way player who can guard multiple positions, including both forward spots. He also gives the Wolves another veteran locker-room presence and another defender to add to their second unit, which was one of the league’s worst defensively last season.
Uncertain exactly how much game Deng has left, Thibodeau signed him to one of two remaining roster spots with no guarantee how much the two-time All-Star will play. But Thibodeau signed him knowing he trusts Deng and his defense and could call upon him to start and play significant minutes if injuries so dictate or play him little or not at all, depending on the circumstances.
The Wolves still have one spot open on their 15-man NBA roster and have worked out Monta Ellis, Brandon Paul, Nick Young, Arron Afflalo and former Wolves Corey Brewer and Brandon Rush, auditioning them for an open spot.
Thibodeau earlier this month said he likes to keep one spot open for future “flexibility” and likely will wait and see if teams with too many players with guarantee contract waive a quality player either before or during training camp and the preseason.
Players report for training camp and their annual media day Sept. 24, two weeks from now.
The Wolves have added Deng, Rose, veteran forward Anthony Tolliver, James Nunnally from Europe and draft picks Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop this summer.
Deng was a two-time All-Star (2012 and 2013) in Chicago, leading the league in minutes played per game both seasons. He averaged 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in nine seasons with the Bulls, three under Thibodeau. Deng has also played for Miami and Cleveland, and was All-NBA defensive second team in 2012.
Born in what is now South Sudan, Deng settled with his family in London to escape the Second Sudanese War. He moved to the United States at age 14 to play high school basketball. Deng played one season at Duke before he was the seventh pick in the 2004 NBA draft by Phoenix, which quickly traded him to the Bulls.
He played for Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics.