The Chicago Bulls, if they amnesty Carlos Boozer, will have significant cap room this summer. They’d have viable starters at point guard (Derrick Rose), shooting guard (Jimmy Butler), power forward (Taj Gibson) and center (Joakim Noah). That would leave a hole at only small forward, assuming Tony Snell isn’t ready to step into a bigger role and Mike Dunleavy plays his age.
Who will be the top small forwards at least potentially on the market?
1. LeBron James. He’s a unlikely to leave the Heat.
2. Carmelo Anthony. There could be legs here, but there are still plenty of hurdles.
3. Luol Deng. Well, this is awkward.
The Bulls, of course, traded Deng to Cleveland earlier this month. But what if he’s the best fit for them this summer? Would they consider him? Would he consider them?
‘‘I don’t know,’’ Deng said sarcastically. ‘‘Maybe they’ll offer me three years, $30 million. That might be an option to take.’’
Deng eventually answered without the sarcasm.
‘‘I can’t say,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s no bad blood or anything. For me to sit here and say I’m taking Chicago out of the equation, that’s stupid. I was there for 10 years.’’
Deng obviously feels a little scorned right now. The Bulls lowballed him on a take-it-or-leave-it extension offer, probably a smart play by them, but one Deng didn’t appreciate. He had little trouble getting motivated to beat the Bulls a few days ago, and though it didn’t work – Deng shot 2-for-11 in a double-digit loss – the passion was real.
But his pragmatic approach is best. If the Bulls are the best spot for him, there’s no reason not to consider them. Otherwise, Deng might just be punishing himself for the next four years purely out of spite.
For the same reasons, the Bulls should consider re-signing Deng. They’d know what they’re getting – a good player who’s well-liked among the team – and he might be the missing piece. For their trouble, they would have avoided a year of the luxury tax and acquired a few draft picks. Not a bad deal.
A good example of such a trade-and-return was the San Antonio Spurs sending Sean Elliot to the Detroit Pistons in 1993 for Dennis Rodman. Elliot struggled with the Pistons, and while he was a restricted free agent the following summer, Detroit traded him back to San Antonio (which was apparently allowed then).
History repeating itself with Deng is a longshot – a real longshot. The Bulls likely traded Deng to seek a big upgrade. But if they strike out and Deng is the best fit left on the market…