Why Giving Up Luol Deng Would’ve Been A Bad Idea

Although the Miami Heat might have benefited from releasing Luol Deng‘s contract to another team, it wasn’t going to be worth it for them.

Making a trade for Deng would have made things especially difficult for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, two stars that are on the backend of their careers as superstars. Up until now, Deng has been called upon to play wing defense against opposing swingmen in the league, and provide a third-tier scoring punch to replace what LeBron James brought to the table last year.

That hasn’t worked out like the Heat have hoped.

But now it seems like everybody is interested in giving up on Deng this season in search of a “greater future.” I’m not sure what that might be, of course, but it seems as though this is the right way forward for a team that, in the public eye, is mediocre.

Here are some reasons why trading Deng is a bad idea:

1. Tanking is massively overrated.

If Deng is shipped off somewhere else for virtually nothing, then that means that the Heat have begun the process of rebuilding, which means that they are in the process of “tanking.” This is the new phenomenon that has plagued the NBA for the past few years, a tactic that has its roots in the corporate world.

When a company sees that it isn’t doing well, then it overhauls its management or its major players with the purposes of starting over, or as they say, “going in a different direction.”

According to the Atlantic Monthly, “…academics like David Berri, the author of the 2006 book The Wages of Wins and a widely read commentator on sports economics. ‘Tanking simply does not work,’ he told me. ‘Nearly 30 years of data tell a crystal-clear story: a truly awful team has never once metamorphosed into a championship squad through the draft.’

“The last team to draft No. 1 and then win a championship (at any point thereafter) was the San Antonio Spurs, which lucked into the pick (Tim Duncan) back in 1997 when the team’s star center, David Robinson, missed all but six games the previous season because of injuries. The teams with the top three picks in any given draft are almost twice as likely to never make the playoffs within four years—the term of an NBA rookie contract, before the player reaches free agency—as they are to make it past the second round.”

The idea that tanking is a thing that can catapult a terrible team into a good one through a draft pick that next season is ludicrous. Of course, anybody that knows basketball knows this to be true. It is impossible to pick up one player that can “turn it around” in just one season. Only the Larry Birds or the Magic Johnsons can say that they’ve done that. That is not a viable option for the Heat going forward.

2. They would be losing an incredible short window with Wade.

Wade doesn’t have that much time left. He may only have two or three more seasons left in the tank. So why waste them if you just signed Deng in the offseason, which wasn’t that long ago, and then ship him off right when you got the opportunity to get your team straightened out?

The “Big Three” in Miami right now hasn’t had the opportunity to play with each other much. As I mentioned in my previous column, nearly every one of them has had injuries this season, with Bosh and Wade missing the most time. Since being together for the past five games, they have gone an abysmal 1-4, but they are riding the coattails of a win against a Brooklyn Nets team that was buzzing.

Now that they are together, let them get into a groove. Let them gel before you throw in the towel on the season. It isn’t as though they aren’t in playoff contention. Bosh and Wade combined for 51 points last game, which is definitely a plus. If Deng can find ways to contribute to that pairing, then Miami could look good.

Besides, Wade doesn’t have much time left. It’s time to start thinking about that and stop pretending like he has the legs to carry the team on offense anymore (which he has been doing).

3. This can be overcome

People conveniently forget that the Nets last season began the season 10-21 and were able to finish 44-38 for the season. They ended up going to the second round and lost to the Heat. Yes, January is not the end of the season, and having a bad beginning doesn’t necessarily mean that a team will finish poorly as well. It would be much better to watch this team continue to play together than just tank for the rest of the season.