CSN Chicago reports that contract extensions between Deng and the Bulls have stalled. Deng was looking to get an extension done this summer.
“We were optimistic,” the source said of the mentality Deng’s camp had heading into the late August meeting, approximately two weeks ago. “Our goal was to get an extension done this summer. If that’s not what they want to do, so be it.
“We’re not upset, Luol isn’t upset. We’re just looking forward to this season and next summer,” continued the individual, who acknowledged that Bulls management expressed how much they value the two-time All-Star, even stating their desire to see him retire in a Bulls uniform. “They were willing to wait and risk losing him next summer as an unrestricted free agent.”
CSN reported a rival GM placed Deng's value at around 4/48 million dollars earlier this summer. While I have no idea what Deng was asking for in an extension, 12 million a year seems like a decent guess. I doubt he was asking for eight, and if I'm the Bulls there isn't that much incentive to extend him now.
However, there's a tiny bit of incentive. The Bulls can actually only extend Deng for three additional years vs paying him an additional five years as a free agent or matching the offer of another team of four years [Deng has no obligation to accept a matched offer as he'll be unrestricted].
If they feel highly likely to extend him at the end of the season, doing so now will save them at least one season of guaranteed money, and with Deng's age, that's probably a good thing.
So a lack of extension right now is probably a good move under the condition the Bulls don't extend Deng at all, but a bad move if they extend him next summer anyway, similar to his last extension where they waited a year and ended up adding one additional season and 14 million on to the total.
Now I've been pretty clear on my opinion that Luol Deng is not a difference maker, and unless the Bulls are willing to go full repeater tax style to win this thing, spending 12 million on a guy who's not a difference maker isn't the way to go.
Stats aren't everything, and Deng does many things which don't show up in the box score. That said you can always find defenders cheap. Ronnie Brewer's hanging out for the minimum now. Tony Allen isn't paid big bucks, and neither was Bruce Bowen. If a guy can't produce offensively, you shouldn't pay him a truckload of cash.
His PER is nothing special, his TS% is actually fairly awful outisde of 10/11, and his three point percentage has tanked [note, 10/11 was the first year he started shooting threes in any volume, so the higher percentage years earlier aren't really representative of anything].
His FG% has dipped to ridiculously low levels for a guy who's not really generating many free throws for you. Overall, it looks to me that since the wrist injury, Luol Deng's more or less been awful on offense. Granted, missing Derrick Rose sure as hell hasn't helped things for him, but it's not like Luol Deng was facing double teams with Rose out.
The Bulls distributed the ball fairly evenly across the court for shots, and Deng was rarely put in the position as primary shot creator.
In short, I get why the Bulls love Luol Deng as a player, but there are only two reasons to consider extending him:
1: There's no cap on spending at all
2: Luol Deng agrees to a deal in the eight million and under range
People throw out 12 million like Deng's contemporaries are Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith, but how about Kevin Martin or O.J. Mayo? I'd swap Deng and Martin without blinking. Martin actually can hit threes, draw free throws, and play on offense. Unlike Deng, Martin's shown he can score even when he's the focal point of the opposing defense and still do it efficiently.
I know some fan will talk about how Deng can play defense and rebound, but the Bulls have these traits in spades, and players who are good at these things typically don't cost much money unless they're playing center where tremendous defense has a vastly, vastly higher impact.
In the end, the Bulls need far more from their SF than Luol Deng provides. He's a very good basketball player, a starting caliber NBA SF, but he's not an eight figure salary guy, and the Bulls are likely going to need to match that to keep him.
If that's the case, then I'm all for it if Bulls ownership says "we're going into this thing Prokhorov style". However, I don't think that's likely. Not with the repeater tax coming up next season. The Bulls will take a step back if they lose Deng for nothing, which is a near lock if they don't extend him.
However, it's better to take a small step back and retain some flexibility than to lock yourself into a guy who will make it impossible to take a step forward for the next four years after you extend him.
So no extension? Probably a good thing as long as it doesn't lead to an even worse extension next off season.
Filed under: Free Agency