What to do with Luol Deng?

Fans don't love or hate players.   They love and hate teams.   They love and hate performances.   Michael Jordan was the greatest to ever play the game, but once he was a Wizard, the majority of his fans probably weren't looking to tune in every game to watch him struggle through knee injuries.   And Luol Deng is no Michael Jordan.
However, he is the nicest player I've ever met, and one of
the best people guys in all of sports. There's no reason anyone
should ever hate Luol the person.  He's a great guy, he's interesting
to talk to.  He's honest and insightful when talking about basketball or worldly views.  He's intelligent, interesting, and oh yeah, he's making about five million more than fans think he deserves on the basketball court.

Everyone loved Deng a couple of years ago.   Back when he was still the great guy, but he was also the great guy on the cheap rookie deal performing at a high level.   A combination of a great contract negotiations on his part and poor luck with his health have left him a marked man in the eyes of fans.   It's hard to blame them.  They see his contract getting in the way.   They see one of the few threes in the league that's not shooting three pointers or kill his opponent off the dribble.

Deng's game relies on movement and mid range jumpers.   It's a game that's more subtle when effective because he creates his shot by finding openings on the floor or making nice cuts to the basket.  It looks like Deng just finishes open looks, but he works hard to create those open looks.  He's a finesse player who can create offense without the ball, something all teams need.   .

In preseason, Deng's making all the right cuts and moves to the basket only to be blocked by players or the rim.   His finishes are frequently a bit short, and the high percentage shots he's creating for himself are going in the hoop a low percentage of the time.   He looks to have finally found his spots in Vinny Del Negro's offense, but his body hasn't allowed him to take advantage yet. 

If he can regain his leg strength then I think we'll see a return of the high efficiency off the ball player we can all enjoy.  If not, he'll be the scorn of fans, the butt of jokes, and hated throughout the diehard fan base.

While I don't think it's fair, I understand it.   I was captain of the "trade Andres Nocioni" bandwagon, and he was in a similar boat.   A guy who bled Chicago Bulls basketball, but signed an extension too large and delivered performance too low thereafter.  Though I was happy to see the Bulls get out from under his contract, I'll always root for him as an individual.

So that leads us to the obvious question.   What should the Bulls do with Luol Deng?

There are those who think his value can't get any lower, so there's no sense in doing anything right now.   I disagree.   Right now, the Bulls could probably unload him for an expiring contract.  

Crazy you say?   No, not really.   First, you have to realize that every year there are GM's out there who are making moves for their job.   They need a short term impact move even if it hurts them long term.   Luol Deng for a guy who can't do anything is a short term positive for any team.

Also, his contract isn't as bad as people think.  30% of his money is deferred.   This means a team which is cash strained can fill up it's cap while not immediately having to pay the money owed.   Say they trade an expiring for Deng that's the same size, they'll save three million in immediate cash.

Now if Luol continues to struggle even unloading him for an expiring may prove impossible.

Still, what's the upside in moving him for an expiring?
1) It makes the team worse.
2) That makes it less attractive to start 2010 free agents
3) We aren't likely to make use of the financial savings in the next two seasons.

Point #3 seems conter intuitive, and I could certainly be wrong on this one of course.   However, losing Deng for an expiring won't be enough to get us 2 max FAs, and to be quite honest, if the cast here is Rose, Kirk, Noah, Gibson, Johnson, then we'll be lucky to bring in anyone good.

In fact, losing Deng probably makes us more likely to vastly overpay Joe Johnson, David Lee, or Carlos Boozer.   I've written about it extensively, but look at 2010 as the year team's go crazy stupid adding decent players at massive prices.   There's still too many teams with money and not enough really great players available.   Especially if a couple stay with their present teams.

So if we can't benefit from Deng's salary cap space in the next two seasons, then what is the real benefit here?   He'd still be under contract for three more years after that, but that's a long way off.   These are the tough decisions management has to make, but I'm not a believer in moving Deng because if he continues to play poorly you may have some negative impact three or four years from now.

Granted, if you wait three or four years from now and Deng has never regained his strength you'll be stuck with him at that point for sure.   On the other hand, if he's a productive, if overpaid, player then he'll still be easily tradeable.   There are always teams willing to take productive, yet expensive, players.   Zach Randolph's been moved three times in the past two seasons.

So I'd certainly shop Luol Deng if someone was interested.   However, I'm not ready to give him away.   I see his presence on the roster helping our 2010 recruiting pitch rather than harming it.   I agree that he's overpaid, and with the Bulls concern over the luxury tax they can only afford so many overpaid guys.   Still, I simply don't see the short term benefit of moving him without talent coming back.

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  • PRESEASON LOW-LIGHTS:

    * 12 Blocks Against...Where's the TOUGHNESS?

    * 38% FG Shooting...Where's the CONSISTENCY?

    * 2 good games, followed by 2 bad games, followed by 1 good game, followed by 1 bad game, followed 1 decent game, followed by 1 bad game...Where's the VALUE?

    Right now, I'm not seeing it. I'm hoping he stays healthy and plays well enough to be traded by the trade-deadline. Whether that means the Bulls can get a big-time player, like Chris Bosh, or have to settle for some expiring contracts, I'm not sure. Either way, I think it's just about time that Luol Deng and the Bulls separate and get a fresh start.

    I'm sure he's a great guy in the lockerroom and in the community, but he isn't EARNING his big-time salary. In fact, his contract is hurting the Bulls more than his play is helping. I'm hopeful John Paxson and Gar Forman can change all that come February. Afterall, pro sports is about WINNING, not investing in MEDIOCRITY.

  • TRADE SUGGESTIONS:

    Chris Bosh Trade

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=nxe4xz

    Marcus Camby Trade

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ygxslly

    Shane Battier Trade

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yz5tl4m

    Josh Howard Trade

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yhbcfgs

    Brian Cardinal Trade

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yl2jy8g

    I think any of those could work at some point this year.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    The Josh Howard deal makes some sense, although Sam Smith wouldn't care for it. Not sure if Golden State would really have any interest in Deng or his contract. Of course Howard seems to have even more of a hard time staying healthy than Deng does.

  • Deng is undependable but he needs time to get back in the groove and to become productive again. He can be a better than average player but never an all star! I hope he succeeds along with the undependable Thomas. Throw in the surprising rookie Gibson and Johnson and we won't get killed in the paint! If all 4 of these guys step up the Bulls will be good at the forward position for a long time!

    Who would want Deng, at the moment he doesn't have much value! He is over paid.

    If you really believe that the Bulls will sign a big name free agent, I would like to know what you are "smokin" dude ?????????

  • In reply to Alex:

    The Bulls will absolutely sign a bigtime freeagent. They have no choice, the fans will revolt in a way that they can't afford if they don't.

    As usual you couldn't be more off base, maybe you should try smoking something, it couldn't hurt in your case.

  • In reply to Alex:

    It is a scary bad commentary on Deng's preseason that you are writing this type of post already, especially since you are an even keel and fairly positive kind of guy.

  • From day one I never liked the Deng pick because A) I don't like Dukies and B) I wanted Andre Iguodala
    I think Deng is soft and lacks a killer instinct to take over a game. I still don't get while they game him that much money. It was Paxson/Forman's biggest mistake and to this day it's still haunting them. they are hand cuffed with this dude.

  • In reply to souleater7:

    Both are severely limited, SF's really need to have 3pt range. Though Iggy is much better.

  • In reply to souleater7:

    I just hope that we can dump Deng for an expiring. He can always recover but he will never be able to play well with rose.

  • In reply to TheStig:

    The more I see this trade idea the more I like it.

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yz5tl4m

    It would give the Bulls a defensive-minded player, who could also help mentor our younger players. The Warriors would get bigger in the backcourt, as they can move Azubuike to SG and let Curry be the 6th-man. Stephen Jackson and Acie Law can go back home to Texas, where they are from. Houston gets deeper at SG, SF and PG.

    I think this trade could work out nice for each team.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    I would love to have him on the Bulls, but Houston isn't trading Battier, he might be Morey's favorite player.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Bigway,

    I don't know. They did just pick up Trevor Ariza via free-agency and draft Chase Budinger, as well as Jermaine Taylor in the off-season. Maybe, that makes Battier a bit more expendable. If their season is a wash this year, which it looks like it will be, they may want to go a different direction.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    If they can't Chris Bosh (see trade above) at the deadline, then I definitely would like them to try to pull off this deal.

    TO BULLS: Shane Battier (he would add defense) and Brian Cook (UFA)
    TO WARRIORS: Luol Deng (it puts Azubuike at SG and Curry as 6th-man)
    TO ROCKETS: Stephen Jackson (Houston native) and Acie Law (Texas native)

    Couple that with a trade for Marcus Camby (Tyrus Thomas and Jerome James to the Clippers) and the Bulls would make a strong statement to the rest of the Eastern Conference.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Could Golden State use Luol Deng?

    I think so, given the small size of their backcourt and the trade demmands of Stephen Jackson.

    GOLDEN STATE'S ROSTER (with Luol Deng):

    PG - Ellis/Curry/Claxton
    SG - Azubuike/Morrow/Watson
    SF - Deng/Maggette/George
    PF - Randolph/Wright/Moore
    C - Biedrins/Turiaf

    To me, that looks a lot better then having Ellis and Curry in the starting line-up.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    CHICAGO'S ROSTER (with Battier and Camby):

    PG - Rose/Pargo/Hunter
    SG - Hinrich/Battier/Byars
    SF - Salmons/Johnson
    PF - Gibson/Miller/Cook
    C - Noah/Camby/Gray

    The scoring still looks good. Plus, the defense and versatility the Bulls could throw at teams is somewhat impressive.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    HOUSTON'S ROSTER (with Jackson and Law):

    PG - Brooks/Lowry/Law
    SG - Jackson/Budinger/Taylor
    SF - McGrady/Ariza/Landry
    PF - Scola/Bonsu/Dorsey
    C - Ming/Hayes/Anderson

    That's still a nice mixture of veterans and young players.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    The Bulls should get involved in these trade talks.

    http://realgm.com/src_wiretap_archives/62410/20091028/jackson_trade_talks_could_be_heating_up/

    A Houston-Chicago-Golden State trade looks good to me.

  • In reply to TheStig:

    IF you look at Deng as a rookie, he was very skinny. He has since added a lot of weight and he is now slower, does not leap as well, and has lost all of his quickness. Where he was previously able to defend up to the point where he needed bulk or strength to hold position, now he can't defend because he can't get to the position in time. Plus, now he has been slowed on the offensive end. He would probably be better if he lost weight which would not be easy. The extra weight may be why he is breaking down so much also. His being a captain when he isn't one of the better players on the floor is a detriment also. Bottom line, Luol seems to be a great guy, but I feel he needs to be traded. There are lots of possible trade situtations. The Bulls need to find one that helps them in 2010, either with salary cap or a draft pick.

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