For years, Luol Deng has been the Chicago Bulls player most rumored to be traded. Despite all this talk, nothing has ever come close to fruition that would have sent Luol Deng out of town. This may finally change during this offseason.
I have never been a proponent of trading Luol Deng in the past. Lu is a guy who adds so much more to a winning team than he does to a losing team, and I felt that when trading him, the Bulls would never quite get back what he is worth to this team.
Luol Deng is 28 years old now, has an injury history, and is not getting any younger. Derrick Rose is 24, and is entering the prime of his career just now. While Deng has been a great player for many years, it may be time to draft a player who can grow beside Derrick Rose, and that could be someone from this draft.
The most recent report by ESPN’s Marc Stein says that the Bulls and Wizards are discussing a deal that would send Luol Deng to the Wizards for Emeka Okafor and the third overall pick in the draft. This is considered to be a very weak draft, but there is great value at the very top. Some names that could potentially pop up with the third pick are Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, and C.J McCollum, all of whom would be fantastic fits next to Derrick Rose.
Similarly to 2010, many Bulls fans are looking forward to the summer of 2014. That class is expected to once again have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and a few other superstars potentially. As of right now, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng’s contracts both expire after this season. It’s also very likely that the Bulls use their amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer that offseason to clear up extra salary cap space. If the salary cap is set around $60 million, Chicago will have in the neighborhood of $16 million to spend.
In all reality, the Bulls are not going to sign a superstar free agent. There is some talk they might sign Kevin Love, and I would not be opposed to them aiming for Chris Bosh, but free agency is always a dangerous route. If the Bulls traded Luol Deng for another equivalent expiring contract like Emeka Okafor, they could potentially just re-sign Deng as their free agent acquisition if it came to that. Then they could have picked a draft pick for effectively nothing.
Trading Deng for a draft pick likely means that Chicago is worse next season than they would have been with Deng on the court. In the long run though, the Bulls could be significantly better. If Ben McLemore falls to them, they could pick up an All-Star level shooting guard to pair up next to arguably the best point guard in the league.
At times, NBA teams have to determine what is best for their future. This Bulls team has the potential to beat the Heat next season with Luol Deng in the lineup. However if the Bulls trade Deng for a long-term draft pick, they could outlast the Heat and potentially win even more titles. While the waiting game is boring for fans, the long-term payoffs are worth being marginally worse for a year. It’s time to move on from Luol Deng.