Moving into the future while shedding off excess weight. The Chicago Bulls media day was mostly about Derrick Rose announcing and predicting just how good he’ll be next season, but noticing Luol Deng avoiding the subject of what might be is final season for the team wasn’t hard to do.
Deng doesn’t want to talk about the fact that the Chicago Bulls aren’t that keen to keep him. He still has just over $14 million left on a one year deal, as the Bulls kept trying to shop for him during the summer and have one ear open incoming trade offers, although it might not happen until the transfer deadline peaking beyond the horizon.
The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t want him, and so didn’t the Washington Wizards. The trade of Deng going to the Pelicans for Eric Gordon makes sense, but on the other hand, the Bulls don’t want to take on another big deal, even if bringing Gordon in means taking care of their shooting guard problem and creating a much deeper squad all of a sudden.
At the moment, Deng is the starting small forward, while Jimmy Butler, who might be just as good as Deng right now, will be moved to shooting guard. He’s a better shooter than Deng, and probably more capable at the moment to guard smaller and quicker players.
It’s hard to believe the Bulls trade Deng if an NBA championship is in site. If they’re one of the top two teams in the NBA by the time February rolls up, they’ll take their chances with Deng, and hope to agree on a deal that pays him around $8 million a season after the playoffs are over, while Deng is still hoping for a healthy season, enabling him to find a $11-12 million per season deal with someone else.
Derrick Rose represents hope, not depression and uncertainty, or at least a different kind of uncertainty. To anyone he talks to, it’s about believing in this team and in himself to be just as good as he was before, which means the best point guard in the NBA, more or less.
But what if Rose is just average? The Bulls are obviously considering it might take him time some time to get back to the confidence levels and ability of when he left us with his ligament injury, happening back in April 2012, the last time he played an NBA game.
Rose is the future, and the Bulls will be patient. Not like last season, but in terms of giving him time to find his minutes and rhythm again. This team is strong enough, as it showed last season, to handle not playing with an actual point guard for a while. Their defense, with Bulter being a more significant part of the lineup, might be even better. Except for a slightly weak bench, everything looks quite ready for making a title challenge in the East, rising to level terms with the Pacers and Heat.
A lot of all these hopes depend on Derrick Rose being an All-Star kind of point guard again, but Deng playing like someone on a contract year might be just as vital in the end.