The Chicago Bulls gave up on Teague quickly, and under normal circumstances (like trying to compete to win the title) I would hardly blame them. Under these circumstances, Chicago has the perfect opportunity to develop Teague against real NBA talent.
Now it's worth noting, the Bulls had to cancel the move because of an injury to Mike James who suffered a sprained MCL in the last game and yet still played through it [so much for our thoughts on the medical staff improving their decision making].
However, the fact that circumstances forced them to cancel doesn't change much about the signals the move sent.
The Bulls are done with Teague
Chicago doesn't use the D-League to develop players. Not since Martynas Andriuskevicius was knocked out by Awvee Storey suffering a fractured skull, severe concussion, brain hematoma, and never suited up for the Bulls. Granted Andruiskevicius was never a stellar prospect, but the injury effectively ended his pro basketball career.
Not hard to see why the Bulls think the D-League may not be a worthwhile investment. I've also always felt that practicing against inferior players doesn't do much to help you improve against vastly superior ones. The D-League MVP is a borderline NBA call up, and typically being sent down to the D-League just means you stink.
There are likely a few D-League success stories here and there, but they're few and far between. Given the Bulls relationship with the D-League, I think it's safe to infer that it's over for Teague in Chicago, and that if the Bulls can't move him this off-season (even just for cap room) that they won't pick up his option for his fourth year.
Management isn't tanking
Of course Gar Forman went on the Waddle and Silvy show and steadfastly denied tanking, but what else could he say? If he ever admitted to tanking the league would likely strip the draft choice away anyway. As such, these types of words really don't mean much or signal anything to the fan.
The move of Teague to the D-League does signal something to the fans though. It signals that the Bulls aren't interested in "developing prospects" that might hurt them in their play right now. It's hardly be viewed as a crazy decision to order Tom Thibodeau to develop Teague rather than play Mike James, a move which likely isn't going to help out the win column much the way Teague has performed so far.
However, the Bulls are going to go with an aged veteran who clearly isn't in the teams future plans in any meaningful way because he'll help them win games now. In this case, it appears the Bulls brass is having a hard time letting go.
The season is gone, but they're still trying to hang on and find some meaning. Last season when Chicago had hope that Rose would come back at the end of the season this made some sense. Rebuilding immediately would have signaled the end of what could have potentially been a strong playoff year if Rose had returned healthy in February or March, a likely scenario (though obviously it didn't happen).
Even if management felt the odds of winning in such a scenario were limited due to rust and continuity, there was the case that they'd at least have all the pieces and you never know.
That's not the case now. This season is a complete dead end. As such, it's time to let go on the idea that a 1st round exit is meaningful. Especially given the strength of the draft class this year relative to last year.
While seemingly unrelated...
That also means the extremely aggressive moves to unload win now players who won't be here next season is unlikely to happen. To me, the clear choice this season is to trade Hinrich and Deng (assuming Deng won't be back, which if he's back management deserves another crack on the skull for not doing the deal this summer when it'd be three years instead of four).
Neither guy helps your future core, both guys help you avoid getting a superstar in this draft. Your tickets are already sold out, and the Bulls can likely balance off any merchandise/concession losses on no shows with saved money in luxury tax/salary payments.
The Memphis Grizzlies could use a backup PG and could take on Hinrich with a trade exception. As could the Nuggets/Thunder/Warriors though those teams may not feel the same need. Still, for a team chasing a title this year, adding Kirk Hinrich for a late 2nd round pick could be a pretty sweet deal and is something that could likely be completed.
I've proposed a few Deng trade scenarios, and Deng's continued quality play makes a trade more possible, but there aren't many suitors out there who have a need, an asset to give up, and short term salary that matches to send back to Chicago.
One interesting scenario would be to swap Hinrich/Deng for Paul Pierce, but the Nets simply don't have anything to throw in to sweeten the deal and make the trade work since they've traded all their draft picks already.
All in all, I hope management comes around
Moving Deng/Hinrich in a dead season where the players are clearly unmotivated and playing for the draft isn't going to kill the culture. Hinrich, Deng, and Noah all lived through the 07/08 season when the Bulls completely fell apart and quit. It didn't impact their long term culture as players. They're still hard working guys.
The Bulls can't win the title in 2014, but they can best prepare themselves to do so in 2015 and beyond. It's time to start that process and Teague to the D-League when he could be in charge of generating some losses and potentially proving himself an NBA caliber player and improving his trade value isn't helping that cause.