Lets begin the breakdown of this big trade by quickly looking at the actual components of the trade, which are tricky in their own right to understand for a casual fan.
Cavaliers receive Luol Deng
(That’s the easy part)
Bulls receive Andrew Bynum, the right to swap picks with the Cavaliers in 2015, unless the Cavs pick is 1-14 (lottery protected),the Kings’ first round pick, which is top 12 protected this year and top 10 protected the next three years, and two future second round picks from the Trail Blazers
Allow me to give a little detail on these assets. First, the Bulls are expected to waive Bynum immediately. The troubled big man is on a unique contract where only $6 million is guaranteed, but if he is still on the roster after January 7th he receives an additional $6 million. The Bulls have no intention of dealing out that type of cash for a guy who doesn’t seem interested in playing professional basketball at a high level.
I predict that the Bulls will exercise the option to swap picks with Cleveland next year. I know this is probably bad luck to say, but next season with a healthy Rose and a solid supporting cast (which I will address later on here), the Bulls should have a better record than the Cavs. But at the same time, the East is still likely to be pathetic next season and the Cavaliers have a good shot of making a run into the postseason in 2015.
That Kings pick will likely not be utilized in this loaded 2014 draft as the Kings, currently 10-22, will probably not climb out of the bottom 12 in the standings this season. But this is a franchise that has come under new ownership and has already shown a willingness to be aggressive. With Rudy Gay, Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins, this Kings team may find itself outside of the top 10 next season, which would give the Bulls an extra first rounder.
Those 2015 and 2016 second rounders from Portland may seem insignificant, and they probably are, but as I talked about over the summer, stockpiling second round picks can have a potentially huge benefit for a team in terms of cap flexibility and having valuable trade assets.
So what does this all mean for the Bulls?
Well for one thing this trade must be considered a massive win for the franchise. This was a team that, even with Deng, was headed for the lottery. The best case scenario for the Bulls this season would have been a first round slaughtering at the hands of either Miami or Indiana. Trading Deng officially signals the waving of the white flag for this 2013-14 squad. Bring on the tanking.
People who may be confused by the Bulls’ unwillingness to take a flyer on Bynum need to understand that this was purely a cost-cutting move by the Bulls. By trading Deng and waving Bynum, the Bulls are saving themselves about $15 million dollars this year. They are able to get under the luxury tax threshold, a big deal for Jerry Reinsdorf. Had the Bulls paid the tax this year, it would have started the clock on them for the incredibly horrible repeater tax penalty. If you are curious what that last sentence means, click here because I don’t feel like explaining it but trust me this move is big time for the Bulls financially.
The real reason this deal was a victory for the Bulls is that Deng simply was not going to resign here this summer. According to sources inside the team, the Bulls and Deng had been quietly negotiating a contract extension. Deng’s camp reportedly turned down a 3 year/$30 million dollar deal. Deng and his representatives reportedly were asking for $14-15 million a year, a justifiable price for a two time All-Star who is only 28 years old.
But the Bulls know better than anyone that Deng’s best days are likely behind him. Having spent the last few years being treated like the Energizer Bunny by Tom Thibodeau, Deng is just not worth that kind of extension. All those minutes will eventually catch up with Deng. For all the cries of Luol being a true warrior, there’s only so many NBA minutes a body can handle and Deng is likely approaching his limit.
The bottom line is that instead of Luol Deng walking away this summer for nothing in return, the Bulls were able to clean up their cap sheet while acquiring valuable assets in draft picks.
I’ve seen on Twitter that some people are concerned that this trade will alienate coach Thibs and Derrick Rose, two relentless competitors who will wonder why the team just shipped off its starting small forward for no immediate on court help. Rose has been very open and honest about his feelings on rebuilding, but it should not be too hard for the pair to see the long term benefits of this move. The Deng trade foreshadows some future personnel moves that this team is going to make.
First, with Carlos Boozer heading into the last year of his contract next year, the Bulls will probably amnesty the power forward. With only one year left on the deal the dollar figure is finally something that Reinsdorf can swallow. With both Deng and Boozer off the books, the Bulls will be able to pursue a free agent in what is going to be an absolutely loaded class of guys.
The trade also means that the Bulls, who sucked already, are now going to REALLY suck. They’re going to suck their way into a lottery pick of what is being called the best draft since 2003.
The 2014-15 Bulls will potentially consist of Rose-Noah-Gibson-Butler-Mirotic-Lottery Pick X-Free Agent X, a core that is good enough to challenge anyone in the East let alone the whole NBA. Rose and Thibs love Deng, as all true Bulls fans do, but they will understand that this trade does not mean the team is taking on a rebuilding project the size of the ones going on in Utah and Philly.
The Bulls can also use this trade to further develop the young assets that are already on the roster. Jimmy Butler can move back to small forward, his natural position. Tony Snell, who has showed brief flashes of potential, will get the chance to play a lot of minutes for this now shorthanded Bulls wing. And maybe even Marquis Teague will rejoin the team as he hasn’t even been getting big minutes over in the D-League.
So what’s left to root for this NBA season? There’s a couple of things.
First, root for the Kings. It’s completely unlikely, but if they can somehow right the sinking ship over in Sacto to the point of being mildly respectable, the Bulls would pick up another pick in this incredibly loaded draft.
Second, root for the Bobcats. Remember Tyrus Thomas? Well in case you forgot, when the Bulls traded him to the Bobcats they received a future first round pick which is top ten protected this season. That means that if the Bobcats pick falls anywhere between 11-30 it belongs to the Bulls.
Finally, root for Deng and the Cavs. Luol gave this franchise everything he had over the last nine years and I wish him nothing but the best in Cleveland this year and where ever he may be in the future. I hope he proves to be the missing ingredient for a promising-yet-disappointing Cavs team that has lacked both consistent play from the small forward spot and a positive veteran presence in the locker room.