After losing star guard Derrick Rose to another injury, the Chicago Bulls are performing worse than expected. No team is going to be the same when they lose their best player, but the Bulls have been downright miserable this season. At 9-16, all hope isn’t quite lost since the team resides in the Eastern Conference where more teams (five) than not (three) that would be in the playoffs if the postseason began today currently have a losing record. As bad as Chicago has been, they sit only one game behind Toronto for the number eight playoff spot.
Still, without Rose, it’s hard to imagine Chicago competing with the likes of the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers for the top spot in the East, even with their third-ranked defense in the NBA.
NBA trade Rumors have been swirling for some time now about the Bulls potentially making some trades to shake things up. In particular, Chicago may be looking to unload salary as they don’t appear as if they can contend for a title this season with Rose sidelined.
Despite having a great trade asset in forward Luol Deng the Bulls seem content to hang onto him. According to an ESPN report, Chicago isn’t planning to trade him despite all of the rumors surrounding his name and the fact that he should bring a sizeable return.
Deng is having another stellar year averaging 19.6 points and seven rebounds in Chicago. At only 28, he could still be in his prime or maybe even approaching it. The 19.6 points per contest is a career-high for Deng and while part of that can be attributed to the fact that Rose is out, he is also playing some of the best basketball of his career and is still on the right side of 30.
Beyond that, though, Deng would be an attractive player for another big reason: He’s in the final year of his contract. His salary is a hefty $14 million this year but approximately one-fourth of the way through the season, a prorated portion of that isn’t quite as bad. Expiring contracts are valuable for any team wanting to land a marquee free agent and Deng brings one of those with him. A potential trade partner can try to sign him or let him walk after the season and pursue a free agent with that money.
Chicago hanging onto him now could mean a few things:
1. They want to re-sign him: Let’s face it, when everyone is healthy, the Bulls have the look of one of the best teams in the East. They may find it difficult to pay Deng what they want and keep everyone else, but they will be open to finding a way if they feel like they can win a title in the process. That isn’t likely to happen this season, but could in years to come.
2. They want the expiring contract themselves: Letting Deng walk in free agency at the end of the year isn’t ideal, but Chicago will have at least saved that money instead of taking on contracts from other players in a trade. That will allow them to chase another player next summer.
3. They don’t think the right trade is out there … yet: The report says Chicago isn’t all that interested in trading him now, but that could be a result of what they’ve been offered thus far. If a team steps up with the right combination of players and/or draft picks and Chicago falls completely out of the race, a trade opportunity might be something they revisit if they don’t want to pay Deng over the long haul.
There’s also the X factor—Chicago still may think they can win this season and are going all in with Deng on board, despite the slow start the team has had. Rose has already said he’s not ruling out the possibility of returning for the playoffs, even if it appears unlikely at this point, and the Bulls could still be targeting other trades. If they somehow got Rose back or are able to make another deal, things could change dramatically. In addition, the East is a train wreck. The playoffs could be comprised of several losing teams and if that happens, the path to a Conference Finals gets a lot easier.
For now, anyway, the Bulls seem intent on hanging onto their star.