Cavaliers trade Andrew Bynum to Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng

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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.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.