During a press conference held after the 2013 Draft, Bulls general manager Gar Forman was asked about rumored trade discussions about Luol Deng during the draft. Forman stated that there is always discussions, which is a nice way to say 'Yes we are discussing trade options for Deng'. Forman continued by making this statement about Deng:
Gar Forman "Luol's a big piece of what we're doing. He's been a big piece of the success we've had the last couple years. He'll continue to be a big piece of what we're doing moving forward."
Here is where the line has been drawn from past to future. Luol is now referred to as a piece and the time after now is the "moving forward". The current financial status of the Bulls roster also leads to thoughts a trade is coming. The recent signing of forward Mike Dunleavy jr. and the performance of second year forward Jimmy Butler makes keeping Deng around pointless at this point. This summer both forwards Josh Smith formerly of the Atlanta Hawks and Andre Iguodala formerly of the Denver Nuggets are free agents. They both can draw comparisons to Deng with their performance, position at small forward and age with Iguodala being 29 and Smith 27 yrs. Recently the Sacramento Kings offered and then pulled back off the table a four year deal worth $52 million dollars for Iguodala, that is an average of $13 million a season for you English majors.
At 29 years old, Deng will start the last year of his contract next season paying him just over $14 million dollars. The Bulls current player salaries exceed the presumed $70 million NBA luxury tax threshold. According to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement the Bulls could be penalized as much as $1.75 on every dollar they go over this threshold. Therefore, Keeping Deng could cost them over $20 million dollars next season for a player that may not even re-sign with your team or could demand a salary the Bulls could not afford to pay.
The contracts signed this summer by Iguodala and Smith will effectively determine the market value for Deng. The Bulls front office will have between now and next season's trade deadline in February to make a decision on Deng, but timing is crucial. With such a lucrative deal all ready being offered to Iguodala, the Bulls could be priced out of Deng before this coming season even starts. One option open to the Bulls is to do a sign and trade. This however, will require Luol Deng to be willing to make such a signing. The one overwhelming denominator with all sports figures is money.
By working out a sign and trade this summer for Deng it would allow the Bulls to get more back in return. With teams willing to fork over big money for a small forward they increase the value of what the Bulls get in return.
Which ever way the Bulls decide to go, The line has been drawn and the sand is all ready running out the hourglass. Recent reports of a rift between Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and general manger Gar Forman over Forman's firing of assistant coach Ron Adams have surfaced. Adams has in the passed had a heated confrontation with All-star center Joakim Noah leading to Noah being suspended from a game.
Many speculate the confrontation this time was about front office roster moves and the drafting of shooting guard Tony Snell. Where presumably Adams and Thibodeau were voicing displeasures with Forman about personnel decisions and the heated exchange left Adams without a job. This story parries that of the comments by Derrick Rose's brother Reggie Rose last season about the Bulls front office decisions.
"What have you pieced together? Have you made any moves? Have you made any trades to get better? You know all roads to the championship lead through Miami," Reggie Rose told ESPNChicago.com. "What pieces have you put together for the physical playoffs?
I will offer Bulls fans a twist to this common narrative, It is well known that Coach Thibodeau is very fond of Luol Deng. He has referred to him as the glue of the team. So the argument could have been all about the organization's decision to move forward without Deng and the Coaches were voicing their opinion on Deng's importance to the team to Forman and Ron Adams took the argument too far. It comes down to maybe winning one now or maybe winning a few down the road a piece. The Bulls are a young core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and future rookies and European Phenom Nikola Mirotic. In the past Luol Deng was the blue-collar player that represented Chicago. Times have changed and he is no longer smart money for the Bulls.