There always has to be one side that made the most of a trade. The Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and three draft picks, including one in the first round. The Cavs might be happy with what they got, but they’re not the winners of this deal.
The Chicago Bulls weren’t lying when they say they wanted to keep Luol Deng all along, but the chances of reaching an extension grew slimmer by the minute. Deng has been with the Bulls since 2004, the longest tenured player on the team (Kirk Hinrich left for a few years), so it’s obviously sad for some to see him go, but financially (and maybe even professionally) it made sense.
The Bulls offered him a 3-year, $30 million extension, which would have taken the team over the luxury tax, but they felt that with a healthy lineup, including Derrick Rose obviously, they are still a championship caliber team. The problem was Deng thinking he deserves more.
Are the Cavs going to give it to him? Right now they have $51 million as their cap-hit number for next season. Re-signing Deng will obviously be a 8-figure deal for three or four seasons. Quick guess without actually being able to predict the future? Deng won’t be playing for the Cavs in 2014-2015.
What about Bynum? The Bulls will now release him so the rest of his deal doesn’t become guaranteed. He’ll get offers from the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers, maybe other teams, and will try to find the best situation for him, which means playing for a contender, although no one is going to give him a long-term, guaranteed deal.
The Bulls also got three draft picks from the Cavs: One of them is a future first-round draft pick owed to the Cavs by the Sacramento Kings from a 2011 trade for J.J. Hickson. The Bulls will get the Kings’ pick if it falls outside the top 12 in 2014 or outside the top 10 picks in 2015, 2016 or 2017. The Bulls also got the 2015 and 2016 second-round picks the Portland Trail Blazers owed the Cavs. They’ll also be able to wap draft positions with the Cavs in 2015 as long as the Cavs’ draft pick is outside the top 14 picks.
This is part of the plan to start making some room for new signings. Deng doesn’t get the Bulls under the salary cap, but it’s the first move. Carlos Boozer will possibly be amnestied (finally!), which will give the Bulls quite a lot of flexibility in the free agency market next season. This season isn’t going to be about more than a playoff spot, or at least that’s what they believe. In the NBA, for big franchises, it’s either win now or build for the future many of times. Hanging around in the middle usually doesn’t get you very far.
The move opens up the chances of Jimmy Butler playing a lot more as a small forward and leaves the Bulls a little short at shooting guard, but we might see another signing from them like the one that brought them D.J. Augustin. They weren’t going to win an NBA championship this season, which has always been the goal, so giving up on Deng (and Boozer in the future) shouldn’t be that surprising.
The Cavs want playoffs, now, and Deng can help them get there, filling their hole at small forward and adding perimeter D. However, after years of building for the future, the Cavs’ move for the now seems to be a very short term one, and eventually might bring them back to where they started.