Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Disappointment of the Luol Deng Trade

The Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum, a Sacramento Kings first round pick, and two second round picks from the Portland Trail Blazers, and the right to swap picks with the Cavaliers in 2015). Well, they kind of traded Luol Deng for that. Let's break it down piece-by-piece.

Luol Deng is going to the Cavaliers. This is indisputable and is 100% happening. Luol is a very good, yet not great small forward. Most people don't know this, but Luol has terrible hemorrhoids, so Thibodeau spares him by never resting him on the bench. Thibs is a really good guy who cares about his player's well-being, so if you see Luol only playing 36 minutes a game for the Cavaliers, it means Mike Brown hates him. In all seriousness, Luol could definitely help a contender, and his contract is up at the end of the year, so he is a very nice piece to add to a team. He's a good slasher who plays excellent defense, and outside of the teams that rely on spreading the floor as much as possible, he could have been a very nice piece for a contender. Instead, he goes to the Cavaliers, and probably adds enough to get them into the playoffs where they are dominated in the first round. 

In exchange, the Bulls got Andrew Bynum. By all accounts, they are going to waive him as soon as possible, but it made the salaries work, so whatever. The Bulls aren't contending this season, so getting any player for this year makes zero sense.

They also received two second round picks (in 2015 and 2016) from the Cavaliers, although those picks actually belong to the Portland Trail Blazers, so they are likely going to be middle of the pack (I think the Blazers are good, but I'm not buying that they are an elite team in the West). Those can get filler players, but nothing special.

They also have the option of switching first round picks with the Cavaliers in 2015, but only if Cleveland has the 15th pick or lower. This may be the piece that excites me the most, as the Cavaliers definitely have the potential to be a very low playoff seed, and if the Bulls have a good offseason and Derrick Rose finally stays healthy, they could be contenders. Going from 26 to 16 would be a nice step up if everything breaks right.

The crown jewel of the trade is the Sacramento Kings's first round pick. Unfortunately, the chances of the Bulls actually cashing in on this is 50/50. For this year, that Kings pick is Top-12 protected, so there is no way the Bulls are getting it this year. It is Top-10 protected for 2015-2017, and at that point, it becomes a second round pick. I know this draft is loaded, but the Kings are still not built well for the future. I love DeMarcus Cousins, but the guy still doesn't play defense all the time, and even with dominant offensive days from him, the Kings still usually lose. Rudy Gay is an above average player who will likely be bolting after his monstrous contract is done. Isaiah Thomas will be commanding some decent money this offseason, and he does some things very well, and other areas he struggles. Ben McLemore is the wildcard for this team. He shows flashes, and if he can fulfill his potential, they can be dangerous. But the West is stacked, and if we're ranking teams' four-year outlook, the Kings are probably only definitely ahead of the Jazz and Lakers while probably being near the same level as the Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Grizzlies. 

In the end, this could be three second round picks for the Bulls, and that is a pretty disappointing haul. It could also be two second round picks, a mid first rounder, and a trade up of about 10 spots in another first round. That sounds good on paper, but how long can the Bulls look to the future when they have a core that is built for the present? 

Having money to spend is nice, but I can't really think of a great way to spend it outside of bringing Mirotic over. That gives them a potential starting five of Noah, Gibson/Boozer, Mirotic, Butler, and Rose with plenty of money if they amnesty Boozer. But whether they can spend that money wisely on filling out a bench is questionable. 

Plus, the front office and Thibodeau do not get along, and tanking this season may give them the excuse to get a new coach. Although I disagree with how Thibs uses minutes with some players, he is an excellent coach, and they will likely be taking a step back with whoever they bring in. 

Luol Deng was a very good player for the Bulls, and although I think it was wise to not invest a ton of money in him for the future, I am still going to miss him. The assets they received in return are nice, but it still doesn't make me feel good about the Bulls in the present or the future. That's why I'm disappointed.

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