Luol Deng
Luol Deng (9) drives against New York Knicks small forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas (91) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Reuters/ Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Luol Deng sat out the final stretch of the NBA regular season following yet another disappointing season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Together with Timofey Mozgov, both stepped aside for the team to evaluate the younger stars.

Both Deng and Mozgov are the high-salaried players for the Los Angeles Lakers. Critics believe that both will be dealt soon. A lot of that will depend on what new team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka plan to do. But as most know, only the young players are safe from being dealt off for now.

At the top of the list for the Los Angeles Lakers is getting a certified superstar. Since the retirement of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have not had a bonafide leader in the mix. The names of Paul George and Jimmy Butler have been mentioned but something could come up this summer.

Though nothing is certain at this point, the Lakers need to clean out their team salary budget. According to Spotrac, Luol Deng stands to make roughly US$17 million (AU$22.5 million) next season and a total of US$36 million (AU$47.7 million) from 2018 to 2020. Mozgov, on the other hand, holds roughly US$47 million (AU$62.3 million) for the next three seasons also according to Spotrac.

Doing the math, those are big numbers that the Lakers could certainly use on their next franchise player plus additional talent. With both Deng and Mozgov failing to live up to par, a trade or buyout could be made before the 2017-18 NBA season kicks off.

Incidentally, Deng hinted through an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News that he could be more effective playing the power forward position. Throughout his career, the 32-year-old has made a living at the small forward spot.

With the Lakers, he is unlikely to get that chance. Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. have a lock on that position. He could jockey for the position with the younger players, though it may be a tough one.

On the other hand, it could be a means for Deng to market himself to other teams. The Pacers come to mind, recalling how president Larry Bird wanted Paul George to get used to playing the four spot back in 2017 via CBS Sports. Could it be a form of sounding off in case a Paul George trade is made?

Either way, Deng is ready to start anew. The only question now is whether that would be with the Los Angeles Lakers or another NBA ballclub.