Not only was Luol Deng on the trade market, the Chicago Bulls had a taker — the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Chicago Bulls have agreed to trade Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and a first round pick (the Kings’ pick owned by the Cavs that is top 12 protected this season, top 10 protected the next couple), the teams have announced. This was a story broken by Shams Charania of Real GM and quickly confirmed by Brian Windhorst of ESPN and Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com.
“We have great respect for Luol Deng, as a player and a person. He has been an incredible contributor to our team on the court, and he has also done great things in the community. On behalf of the entire Bulls organization, I want to thank Luol for his years in Chicago. The moves made today will put us in a better position to make the entire roster stronger for the future and to compete for a championship,” said Bulls GM Gus Forman in a statement released by the team.
Deng had rejected a three-year, $30 million extension from the Bulls last week, reports Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. That made the Bulls think he was leaving this summer as a free agent, so they wanted to get something for him.
The Cavs had wanted to upgrade at the three and get a guy who could help them make a push toward the playoffs in the East — Deng gives them a real chance at that (although it’s going to take more than just Deng to get them there, Kyrie Irving has to be healthy and better). The Cavaliers are just three games out of the playoffs in the East so the playoffs remain a reasonable goal. The real risk for them is that they are unable to re-sign free agent to be Deng this summer — if he walks this is a little bit of a loss, but not really a big one because the Cavs would have waived Bynum themselves. This was a solid gamble.
The Bulls will waive Bynum Tuesday and with that save $15 million this season to get under the luxury tax. As we have noted before, if they now amnesty Carlos Boozer this summer (as expected) the Bulls will have about $10 million at least cap space to go after another free agent to go with a core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler. Plus Bulls management believes Nikola Mirotic (who is still playing well in Europe but is expected to be in the NBA next season) will be a big part of that future. The Bulls now also potentially have the Sacramento pick in this draft (top 12 protected, so the Bulls probably don’t get it it this year) and Charlotte’s first rounder (top 10 protected) not to mention their own pick to add some depth to that core.
While Rose’s people have leaked he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuilding process, this isn’t a full “tear it down” rebuild, by the time he returns this will be a good and potentially very good team.
This shows why the Cavaliers were not willing to throw in another pick or piece in talks with the Lakers — they had coveted Deng more than Pau Gasol and were willing to give up more to get him.