By Shawn Gakhal
Breaking news: Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a suddenly unmotivated center, Andrew Bynum, and a couple of draft picks that may never pan out.
This must be a bad dream.
Coming into the year, Deng was unable to reach a contract extension with the Chicago Bulls, which many NBA insiders felt was an ominous sign that he would test free agency after the season.
The Bulls made one last ditch attempt to secure Deng long-term by offering him a three-year, $30 million deal, according to Yahoo sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski.
Deng most likely scoffed thinking he could make bank on the open market, where the supply of All-Star small forwards are few and the demand is high. He knows his value. And you can bet the Bulls did too.
So, what happens in negotiations when a stalemate is reached?
Well, the Bulls didn’t wait for the potential implications and traded Deng this past week, ushering in a new era for the team, where cap savings and potential first round draft picks were all the rage in Chicago media. The Deng trade saved the Bulls more than $20 million.
If the Bulls received Bynum a few years ago, when he cared about playing basketball, this would have been a tremendous deal. Anyways, the Bulls ended cutting him to save more money.
The haul that the Bulls got back in return wasn’t great. In fact, one of the picks that they received in the trade is predicated on the Sacramento Kings being good sometime in the near future.
Anyone want to take bets on when that will happen?
The return on the Bulls investment in Deng wasn’t the point here. The savings and additional cap space was the real winner of the deal.
It’s clear that the Bulls didn’t feel that Deng was worth a max contract and low-balled him on a deal. But more importantly, the new money can now be allocated to bring over star-power forward Nikola Mirotic, a Spanish sensation who currently plays for Real Madrid. He was drafted by the Bulls in 2011.
Let’s be honest here—the Bulls weren’t going to win a ring with Deng. He was a nice player, but not a game changer.
He also wasn’t the second-best player on a championship team.
He’s a nice complementary player who plays hard defense, but don’t expect him to wow you with his one-on-one moves, dribbling exhibitions or smooth jumps.
Yes, the trade means the Bulls will be bad this year, and if they somehow make the playoffs, they will most likely be first-round fodder.
However, if trading Deng allows Mirotic to come over, plus the possibility of a max free agent to play alongside the already supremely gifted Derrick Rose—well then, by all means, sign me up for that.