The rumors around Luol Deng will continue to swirl until the trade deadline. One report says the Bulls aren't shopping, and that both he and the Bulls want to extend their contract into the future. The next has his name floating in trade rumors. It's really pretty simple.
Teams like Luol Deng, but not for a year
Aggrey Sam noted this in his most recent article.
No, certainly not by law enforcement and not even so much on the NBA’s trade market, as many teams are hesitant to take him on as a half-season rental, especially if the Bulls’ price is a productive young player and a first-round draft pick, as people in the know around the league continue to say. But more significantly, Deng’s prospective suitors are more eager about his impending unrestricted free agency, when they could have a chance to woo him away from the only franchise the two-time All-Star has ever played for in his professional career, signing him free and clear.
Many of the interested teams have cap room next year and little interest in giving up an asset to get him when they can bid next summer without losing anything. The teams that don't have cap room aren't necessarily excited on giving up a bunch of assets for Deng only to then have to pay him an unknown amount of money next season.
Maybe you like Luol Deng enough to pay him 12 million a year, but do you like him enough to give up a first rounder, a decent player, and then maybe have to go 14 million a year if the bidding gets crazy?
The Bulls want something good for Luol
At the same time, the Bulls also want something good for Luol Deng. They have two firsts (assuming Charlotte stays on track) and Mirotic on the docket next summer. That's an influx of three rookies already. They likely aren't anxious to bring in a fourth.
A mid round first might allow them to trade out to next year and maintain a large stable of future assets to grease trade wheels or improve the team. It may also allow them to trade up in this draft to get a player [though clearly not to the star area of the draft], but it's probably not that useful as an asset to add wins next season.
In the end, a mid round first is highly, highly unlikely to ever become as talented as Deng, and almost certainly not in year one. The Bulls may be looking to win now, and the value received for Deng likely won't be as high on the court as Deng. The value of getting a better draft pick might, but that can also be dicey.
Of course, that assumes the Bulls keep Deng which is certainly not a given.
The chance of keeping Deng is small but has some upside
If the Bulls get back a healthy Rose, bring in Mirotic, Snell develops, and they get some productivity out of their 2 firsts then they likely view themselves as a deep, contending team again.
It's probably a long shot that they can afford to keep Deng and make all this happen, especially hoping for Rose to come back healthy. That said, this long shot might be better than the other long shots facing the Bulls.
Bulls management had better know what their number is for Deng and take an honest look at free agency to see if they think he'll fit it. Josh Smith proves that it only takes one idiotic team to make the bidding go haywire, and there's a lot of teams with money to burn for a free agent class that likely won't be exciting if LeBron and Melo stick.
Even if they move, there's a lot of teams left with money to burn after the few guys better than Deng are gone.
Chicago's not in great position to win a title. However, they're miles away from Knicks/Nets screwed.
While I personally would look to move Deng, tank, and build for the future, it's not hard to make the case for attempting to keep Deng and roll with what they have + Mirotic and 2 picks [or possibly a quality player that can be obtained for 2 picks and Boozer's expiring deal].
The real difference to me is that moving Deng might increase your odds of landing a star in the draft from 5 to 20%, but that's still a low chance and if the Bulls don't land a star in the draft, they won't be stronger for having moved Deng.
Tough situation for management
I noted it a long time ago, Luol Deng presents a tough choice for management. He's likely going to cost more than he's worth on the court, but while you also won't be able to get the same value in trade.
The Bulls are stuck blowing up the salary or losing talent on the team. I'd take the risk in letting Deng walk myself, but I won't sit here and pretend that it's definitely the best choice. If the draft doesn't pan out for Chicago after moving Deng, then their odds of winning a title will go down considerably after moving him.
Management likely wants to keep Deng on the right deal, and I'm good with that. However, they really need to decide if they an afford to keep him on the wrong deal, because that's far more likely. In the end since this year is dead anyway, there are a few possible outcomes:
1: The Bulls trade Deng, get some value back and possibly improve their draft position. They likely get an 8th man type plus the possibility of drafting higher with their own pick giving them a 300% greater shot at the star portion of the lottery but still only 20%ish odds overall.
If they fail to get the star in the draft, they will have worsened the team talent wise, but improved it financially and flexibility wise by adding in another young desirable rookie deal and subtracting a long term large conract.
2: The Bulls keep Luol Deng and resign him at a good price. Unless the Bulls hit the 20%ish chance and get a star in the draft, the Bulls likely have the most on court talent this way. However, they'll be very limited financially and may have to make hard choices with guys like Butler/Gibson in the near future.
They'll likely replace Boozer with Mirotic which may or may not be a plus, and the team may or may not have a real shot at winning a title next year depending mostly on whether Rose can play like a star and whether the other new additions (2 1sts and Mirotic) do relative to the subtractions (likely Boozer and Hinrich).
3: The Bulls keep Deng and resign him at a terrible price. The situation isn't that different from #2 except that now the Bulls will need to commit to paying repeater tax and likely have to get rid of other players. Their window is smaller, and if it doesn't work then escaping and starting over will be much tougher.
4: The Bulls keep Deng but are outbid in free agency by someone else. This is the worst case scenario. The only upside is a bit of extra financial flexibility, but it comes without gaining the assets a trade would bring in and the talent loss of moving him at the deadline as well as not giving the Bulls a better shot at a star in the draft.
In short, when you look at these scenarios, as a fan you can live with #1, #2, and probably #3. #4 would really eat away at you, and I don't think the Bulls are willing to live with #3. #2 seems like a pipe dream given the free agent market which is why I view #1 as the best path forward.
Hopefully they come to terms with that and move Deng or I'm simply incorrect about their willingness to spend.
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