Dengless Bulls far away from tanking, top Suns

Dengless Bulls far away from tanking, top Suns

For those thinking the Bulls trade of Luol Deng to the Cavs means they'll fall out of the playoffs, well think again. The Bulls, sans Deng, won against the Phoenix Suns last night, and we'll have to see if that was a fluke or whether the team continues to fight back.

It's worth noting the Bulls have now won six of eight games while Deng played in two of the wins and one of the losses. So they're won four of their last five games without Deng. There's a divergent view of Deng. Many feel he adds much more to the game than his stats. He's the guy Thibs can count on to keep everything going.

I sometimes feel that way, but I also frequently feel he's one of those guys who's heavily overrated. A guy who puts up decent points on this team because there's no one else to do it. Who's defense is consistent but not spectacular. He's a quality player largely because of his work ethic, character, and willingness to do anything. He has a well rounded game but no true big strengths.

While he's absolutely been an average to above average starting caliber SF his whole career, the Bulls paid a pretty penny for his type of production, and I've often wondered how much we'd really miss him if he were gone. Four of the past five nights, the answer has been not all that much. We'll see what that answer is the rest of the season.

For those thinking the Bulls can tank down to the good picks in the lottery tomorrow, unless there's significant follow up trades to dump talent, don't hold your breath. The East is so bad that I think the Bulls will still make the playoffs without Deng. I think there's a better than 50/50 chance we may not even see a significant decline in team performance.

When Deng went down before, Jimmy Butler stepped up and played just as well or better. I think to some extent the offense creates a lot of Deng's opportunities and will make any hard working player look a bit better than they are. I expect Tony Snell to start playing some better ball with quality minutes and Jimmy Butler to play much better running at SF.

This isn't to criticize Luol. He'll always be one of my favorite Bulls as a person. He was the first NBA player I ever interviewed and still probably the nicest NBA player I've met. John Paxson said something strange on the radio yesterday, when discussing whether the Bulls were tanking he noted that people thought the Raptors were tanking when they traded Gay, but they got much better.

"You never know" he said. I think it'd surprise most if the Bulls are better without Deng, including myself, but I don't actually expect that much drop off, and when the Bulls actually don't have that much drop off, I think we'll then feel pretty good about not having to pony up 15 million for him next season.

This is one of those Richard Jefferson type scenarios. Good player looking to break the bank one last time, and the team that pays him is going to likely find out it was a mistake. That's always been my view on Deng. I've always been scared the Bulls would be forced to pay because they're trying to win a title and can't afford to let him walk and lose talent.

The Bulls choose that road and definitely lost talent. The return was potentially pathetic. The Bulls may or may not even get a first rounder out of it. Hopefully the Kings do well in the lotto this year and compete in the West after adding a star in the draft to go along side DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.

That said, the road to keep Deng was more perilous, especially with the risk of Derrick Rose not recovering to play like a star player. If he doesn't and the Bulls were stuck paying Deng big money they'd be deep in the tax with no shot to win and no flexibility. Instead, the Bulls lived to fight another day instead of ponying up the cash to likely go down with the ship.

It wasn't an easy decision, but it was likely the best decision. One day later, with a quality win, the decision looks even better.

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  • Still keeping my fingers crossed we get a top 10 pick this year somehow but its not looking good

  • I actually watched a Bulls game - it had been a while - to see two things: how the Bulls would play without Deng and to see if the Suns are real. I realized that I was right on both accounts - Bulls are still not bad enough to be considered a tank team and the Suns are not for real and recent hype they've been getting. Suns are a nice try hard team who may win regular season games and may squeak into the playoffs only to be trounced in the 1st round.

    Bulls are not a tank team until Teague and Snell are playing starter minutes with even Murphy seeing the floor. That means Hinrich, Dunleavy, Augustin all need to go. Even with Butler, Noah, Boozer and Gibson, the Bulls are talented enough to get into the playoffs. This is what Basketball hell looks like. Not great enough to compete for a championship and not bad enough to get a top 3-5 pick. For this season to count for anything, Bulls need a top 5 pick - I'd consider trading Gibson or Noah in the right deal. We need a franchise player in this draft to pair up with Rose and Mirotic to have any chance for the next championship window.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    What about Noah, Hinrich and Mohammad to the Nets for Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee, and 2019 1st round Pick.

    This deal accomplishes 3 things:
    1. You trade a 28 year old Noah for a 25 year old Lopez, who is a better offensive player than Noah but can still hold his own defensively.
    2. It allows you to continue to tank this year because Lopez is out for the year with a broken foot but should be healthy for next year. Also making Nets better this year is one more team in the playoffs.
    3. You pick up 2 assets in Plumlee who can play and grow this year but is more likely a big off the bench on a cheap contract the next few years and pick up a future 1st round pick even though it will be a while before we see that pick.

    The Nets will do this deal because they are desperate to compete this year and Lopez can't help them this year. They also dont care for draft picks and are willing to trade young assets like Plumlee. Also Hinrich and Mohammad give them depth.

    This deal also may appease Noah as he'll go to a team trying to win right now as well as moving to his home in the NY area.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    The Bulls, IMO, are no where near basketball hell. They have many paths to get better and if Rose comes back healthy will again be one of the better teams in the NBA.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Zach Lowe from Grantland apparently agrees with you.

    "Back to Chicago, and to free agency: This will be Chicago's last summer before Jimmy Butler is due a new contract, which will add another large deal to a pile that includes Rose, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson. Bring Butler back at a fair rate, ink Mirotic, and factor in all the picks Chicago is now due (including a first-rounder from Charlotte at some point), and the Bulls could be facing limited cap flexibility in future summers after this one. A lot can change, obviously; the cap will continue to go up, the Bulls will make trades, and Noah's deal is up after 2015-16.

    But the Bulls have some incentive to use this newfound cap flexibility while they have it, either in free agency or in some lopsided trade. Remember: Deng may emerge as one of the top three real free agents this summer, and the Bulls just let him go. They have to replace his production, at some point, somehow. Mirotic and the picks will help, but the Bulls need more proven stuff on the wing in addition to Butler, Mike Dunleavy, and the untested Tony Snell. If I were Gar Forman/John Paxson, I'd think hard about breaking the bank for Lance Stephenson — an unrestricted free agent who could work on the wing next to Butler and effectively serve as the team's backup point guard, a role Stephenson is playing now for Indiana. Stephenson is a rare thing — an under-25, unrestricted free agent. The Bulls might have to carve out a bit more room to realistically chase him, perhaps by salary-dumping the helpless Marquis Teague, but it's worth a thought. (Side note on Mirotic: The 2014 draft will mark three years since the Bulls picked Mirotic, meaning they could sign him outside the restrictions of the rookie scale, per several league sources.)

    "If Chicago can't find the right free-agency target, it could hold the fort with a couple of affordable veterans, and use its new bevy of assets to kick around potential trade ideas for big names who might become available.

    This trade puts Chicago in a very good place. It's hard to come out much better while losing an All-Star in what amounts to a salary dump/tanking maneuver.

    Finally on Bynum, he says, Regardless: He's a bit player in a really interesting deal that is more of a win for Chicago.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Interesting take by Lowe on Lance Stephenson as a potential Bulls free agent target. Personally, Stephenson is among my least favorite personalities in the NBA, he might just be the new Stephen Jackson. He does however, seem to have some talent, albeit still erratic.

    Not sure that Lowe has really done the math yet, because Stephenson would use up nearly all the Bulls cap space $10-12 million thus not allowing us to pay Mirotic's contract(and his full buyout as a signing bonus) out of cap space. Not sure if we can still use our full MLE on Mirotic if we use up most or all of our cap space on Stephenson, but we can't pay off his buyout. So signing any free agent next summer could delay Mirotic's arrival for one more year, and could jeopardize it entirely if he decides to extend.

    Anyway, what do you guys think about a guy like Stephenson?

  • In reply to BigWay:

    MLE is the mid-level EXCEPTION for teams above the cap. Under the cap, no exception. It's either cap room for free agents or exceptions, but not both. (however, if they sign free agents up to the cap, they can then use a mini-mini-MLE of 2.5 million, which is pretty much useless). Normal teams: MLE. Above the tax threshold: Mini-MLE. Cap space: mini-mini-MLE. At this rate it looks like we'll be signing Mirotic out of cap room and then have another 6 million or so for a lower-level free agent, but only one max deal available (which would mean putting Mirotic on the shelf for another year).

  • In reply to BigWay:

    also interesting is his short but sweet take on the helpless Marquis Teague, I guess that means that Lowe is just another unintelligent idiot, despite being the best basketball writer going these days.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Teague certainly is pretty helpless right now, I don't know of anyone who would say he isn't. I have certainly never claimed otherwise. He's had a few good games in the NBA, but not very many. All I have ever said is that in a few years, he'll be a serviceable back-up in the league. He's still the 13th youngest player in the NBA (or I guess on an NBA roster would be accurate), and he's actually played fairly well in his last 3 D-League games (14.3 pts, 7.3 ast, 3.3 to, 51.3% fg in 26 min).

  • During the game they showed a graphic from Bloomberg showing the Bulls' projected wins for this season at 36.3 before the Lu trade. After the trade, the projected win total drops only to 33.9. Basically we are talking about 2.4 total wins, so yeah I have to agree that Lu's absence probably won't affect this team a great deal, unless Jimmy goes down for an extended period of time.

  • This article pretty much summed up my thoughts after the Bulls trade and win last night.

    Key stats from last night's game...

    42 minutes and a double-double by Taj with Boozer out, 41 minutes for Butler, 31 minutes for DJ with 9 dimes and 13 pts. 36 minutes and a double-double for Noah.

    This shows me 2 things:
    1. The Bulls are still plenty good enough to beat up on the bad teams, battle the mediocre ones, and pull an occasional win from the top teams.
    2. Thibs is willing to run this team into the ground to get to the playoffs. Injury, Pain, Fatigue...Meh....playoffs or bust.... after all as far as Thib's is concerned, if the players just give him a 120% at all times, and be willing to sacrifice themselves for the team, and everything lines up just right, and if they get a couple lucky breaks, and....It could happen. ;-)

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    For the Bulls to miss the playoffs, I think they'll need injuries, but Thibs certainly might run them into the ground to create a few.

  • By the way, Off Topic but SHAME on former Chicago Bull, Dennis Rodman, for his outburst against American Citizen, Kenneth Bae, who is still imprisoned in North Korea without being charged with any crime. That outburst was not just unbelievably disgusting, but also the act of a traitor as far as I'm concerned.

    I hope "The Worm" pisses off Kim Jung Un and gets imprisoned for no reason. Then maybe he will understand that this not a game, and he shouldn't speak on things he doesn't understand.

    If anybody in the Chicago Sports media has an ounce of integrity they need to call him out for this.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I think tons of people have already called Dennis out on this. I personally don't know anything about Kenneth Bae, so I'm not going to call anyone out on anything as I don't really have the stomach to write about politics that I'm ignorant of.

    I know North Korea's a pretty f'd up place though, and Rodman's probably pretty crazy in terms of what he said which actually made fairly little sense anyway.

  • Could not have said it better myself, you hit the Deng nail on the head. Why couldn't we agree in the same way on the whole Ben Gordon thing. I also agree that the Bulls could finish anywhere from 3rd to the lottery depending on injuries and trades, both ours and everybody elses. As an example of the injury effect, we likely lose last nights game if Bledsoe plays, which he is expected to do in a day or 2.

    The biggest factor in the Bulls tanking will be healthy bodies. We now have no margin for error, so if somebody goes down, we just don't have the bodies to compete for more than a game or 2. Look at last night Taj played 42 minutes, actually I'm surprised that both he and Butler didn't play the full 48.

    As for the Sacto draft pick, I tend to disagree with the general consensus. I'd put the odds at between 75 and 99% that we get that pick in the next 4 drafts. Very likely not this one, but how hard will it be for Sacto to not be one of the 10 worst teams over the 3 year period from 2015-17. Statistically, it is a virtual certainty. Its not like they have to make the playoffs or win a series or 2. To me that pick is virtually guaranteed to be a decent one, between 11-15 or 20 at worst. The Kings have some talent, they just have to get their act together, hey they beat Portland last night with Cousins and Gay both going for over 30 points.

    So combine that with the Charlotte pick, and we should have extra first round picks in the teens over the next 3-4 years, plus Mirotic and our own picks, that gives me more hope than 4 more years of Deng at $15-16 million per, plus boozer for one more at $16.8 million.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    You are absolutely correct, the extra picks in the teens should be worth more than Deng at $15 million per yr for 4 years (or 5 yrs!).
    Even if those picks are not equal to Deng, they will be so much cheaper that the Bulls just might be able, with a S&T, land Love or someone like him. After Hinrich and Boozer are gone, of course.

    I do wonder about a S&T right now for Carmelo. Would the Knicks take Noah, the Charlotte pick, and the Kings pick for him? Of course, Melo would need to sign an extension for a reasonable figure ($16 Million per?) for the Bulls to pull the trigger on that one. I guess he will be shooting for a higher contract. Probably a pipe dream.

    Plus, it might be better for the Bulls just to hang on and see what develops. I recall that a year after the Bulls got Taj, analysts were saying he would have gone in the top 4 if that draft was redone! Maybe the Bulls can hit a couple more in the teens.

    But the team still needs the elite player. How can they get him if they are not drafting in the top 5 this year? Find a steal in the draft, sign an elite FA, or a trade -- that's it. And all are long shots. I still want them to tank it now -- best shot for years to come.

  • Wow! What a day! Pax has a dramatic side and you are all convinced that this Deng thang is all over. But, lets suppose Pax and Gar are smarter than what they look like. What are the possibilities guys? Could this be "Rent a Deng" year?
    I'm a Black man and I think what Rodman is doing is total stupid--plus he is putting himself to be in a possible bad position. All he needs is to say something stupid and he's put in jail for 40 years over there--maybe that's how long it will take him to learn that the world does not revolve around himself.
    I hate to see Deng go--but, if another team will pay him what he's worth in comparison to other players of his stature are recently getting--market value--I wish him well. I just remember how Reinsdorf didn't want to pay Jordan and traded Pippen to Portland where he finally got paid. And all along during the Jordan and Pippen Era the Bulls made several billion dollars selling the jerseys of Jordan and Pippen. I just wonder how much the Bulls have made off of Deng jerseys during the last 9 years--was it enough to justify not paying him what he thought he was worth? I guess Deng's salary must have come out of your personal bank accounts during the last 9 years since all of you constantly think he was being paid too much and was overly valued..
    And none of your seem to realize that the Bulls have received almost nothing in return but picks that have little or no value--but money which the Bulls management was not really.concerned about--and still nothing for Asik which means the Bulls got nothing in return for 2 players that are still valued in the league.
    I believe Cleveland FO is smarter than Chicago's FO and they will trade Deng before February 20 and get a quality player and 1st round draft picks--after learning Deng will not resign with them next year. Gentlemen this Deng thang is not over yet--maybe Pax and Heard are smarter than given credit--and may have already Deng's signature on the dotted line. This is Rent a Deng Year!

  • In reply to penwit1:

    Nobody wears a Luol Deng jersey.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:


  • In reply to penwit1:

    I can't imagine Deng would come back here, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

    I also can't see Cleveland getting more for Deng later, though since the Bulls saved 20 million dollars, I guess it's hard to debate about what 'more' would be.

    I terms of the money, I don't think anyone cares how much Deng makes in terms of whether he "earned it". We care because how much Deng makes significantly impacts what the team can do to build and improve outside of Deng.

    Finances in the NBA (at least on this blog) are related to how you can build the best team not based on whether or not a guy morally deserves something.

    I don't know hwo many Deng Jersey's the Bulls have sold, but any good Bulls team will sell a lot of jerseys. I don't think Deng was anything special (like Rose) in terms of selling them. He's not a huge draw for jersey sales or anything.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I could see Deng coming back here to end his career as a back-up reserve and mentor to the younguns, but he's going to get paid on this next contract. By someone else.

  • The suns flew in the morning of the game. On a normal schedule, they probably beat this bulls team.

  • Hinrich off to Golden State reports are saying.

  • Steve Aschburner at notes this as yet another example of the Bulls having a poor relationship with a player, a reputation that could be the reason why previous times of 'flexibility' hasn't led to any superstar free agents.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    Well, Carmelo says that the Bulls are one of 3 teams he would like to play on.

    Obviously, the Bulls, even with the losses of Rose and Deng, and others out for stretches with injuries, are still better than most EC teams. Take away the best and 2nd or 3rd best player on any team and see how good they still are!

    The Bulls should be better next year. Watch and see.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    I hope you are right, Rustyw but giving away our talent and not receiving a quality player in return is never the answer. We miss Asik and Deng after years of waiting for them to mature. Carmelo does not play defense so he may not be the answer to Chicago's needs. And we cannot expect another Michael Jordan with even the best draft picks. We are now looking at rebuilding if we cannot attract a player like Aldridge who has in the past expressed an interest in playing here.

  • Can't take too much from one game, Snell is normally going to play a lot worse than that. Losing Deng will still hurt the record.

    Noah's also played all bar one game so far, can't be too long before he misses a stretch of games which will hurt the defense. Without defense it's tough to see the team win many.

    I agree further re-enforcements to the tank are required though, starting with getting Teague back into the rotation. Moving either Hinrich or Dunleavy to make it happen has to be the next priority.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Yea, If we lose Noah for any length of time, we're toast, however, we virtually guarantee ourselves a top 5 pick. To a lesser extent, losing Butler or Taj could get us there, and all 3 of those guys have been known to get nagging to significant injuries.

  • Duh Rustyw, you may be on the money here if we look at a FO with a vision--and this works for me if Thibs can just be cool. Getting Carmelo at max maybe the FO goal. Now this is a good possibility If we amnesty Boozer in the summer, Trade Hinrich and Dunleavy now for draft picks. Keep Rose, Noah, Gibson, Butler, Snell, Teague and Murphy as the basic foundation. Give Snell, Teague and Murphy(the 3pt man) all the playing time they can handle and fill the rest of the roster now with D-league contracts till the end of the season. Now this would be alright with me! Why not? Lets go for the gusto, guys!!! This would also strengthen Chicago's draft position with loses that may have lottery prospectives. Chicago can get Carmello and still pay Deng whatever they agreed upon.

  • Next year we may get Hinrich back for a minumum contract to share in the Championship year.

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