Frigid Chicago is now the Valley of the Rose, and in his absence, Noah’s Ark, as longtime glue man Luol Deng is a Bull no more. As reported by XN Sports, along with a ever-growing Twitter feed of other outlets, the Cavs parted ways with self-combusting Andrew Bynum and a pocketful of draft picks for Mr. Dengerous himself. Chicago weeps frozen tears.
Except that it shouldn’t. Deng, a two-time All-Star, a Thibodeau fave, and a player recognized and appreciated by the league’s many coaching staffs is hard to part with, but circumstances increasingly made his stay in Chicago simply a countdown. For starters, the Bulls medical staff did an atrocious job last postseason of supervising Deng’s health as he underwent a spinal tap that was mishandled. It’s reported that Deng flirted with death because of the ordeal. How do you exactly settle on contract negotiations – a matter of communication and trust – after that?
With Derrick Rose sidelined anew, the Bulls became a team that must bide its time. Though a vet, Deng is just now entering his prime and would be embarking on free agency during a moment when plenty of teams with ample cap space will jump at the chance to overpay him. The Bulls still see Rose as their long-term focus, and with Deng unwilling to take on a 3-year, $30 million contract that justly fits his talents and career timeline, the Bulls organization either satisfied one man’s expectations or their future state of affairs. The second won out.
As was discussed in the Lakers-Cavs tentative deal, the Bulls saw an opportunity in Bynum to take on a player with a favorable contract that they can waive outright. The move would reduce their expenses by about $15 million (including Bynum’s six big ones), avoid a situation where they lose Deng for zilch, and secure important assets for their newly revalued future.
So, to recap, the Luol Deng-Andrew Bynum trade gives the Bulls:
1) under the luxury, which would keep them from paying repeaters’ luxury taxes. An important move for their long-term competitiveness.
2) a player they can waive to further open up room for free agents.
3) Cleveland’s right to the Sacramento Kings’ first-round draft pick, one that should pay off nicely in the loaded 2014 draft, but one, that should be noted, only comes into play if the Kings finish with one of the 12 worst records in the NBA. That certainly looks likely as of now.
4) the right to swap 2015 first-round draft pics with the Cavs if Cleveland’s 2015 pick lands between 15 and 30 in the class.
5) the Portland Trail Blazers’ 2015 and 2016 second-round draft picks which were acquired by the Cavaliers from the Blazers on 2013 draft night.
6) more playing time and an increased role for Jimmy Butler, which we’ve covered before.
7) a one-way ticket to the bottom of the Eastern Conference which could set them up for a high first-round draft pick of their own (if the scrappy Bulls don’t turn out to be as scrappy sans Deng).
8) precedence, for when they amnesty Carlos Boozer.
9) and, something that has been little mentioned, less pressure to have Rose ready to return in time for the playoffs (as they never ruled that out).
The Cavs get to move on from Bummy Bynum and address a major concern at the small forward spot. They’re in all kinds of disarray, so it’s doubtful Deng will transform them into a playoff team overnight but without LeBron all the city has left is LeBrightSide. Deng, who would be a free agent in the summer, could also then decide to skip town for a place like L.A.
Really, though it’s understandable and encouraged that Bull fans lament the trade given how valuable Deng has been for them over the years, it’s a move that was unavoidable. Like checking old batteries on fire alarms – it’s hard to get through but is something that has to be done for everyone’s sake. Still, this one’s going to sting for a while.
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