Sunday, December 22, 2013
What to do with Luol Deng?
By Nick Friedell
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls are not planning to trade Luol Deng this season, according to a report from ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst on Friday morning.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Bulls are not planning to trade Luol Deng this season. But should they reverse that stance?
But should they?
It's the question that Bulls fans continue to wonder about as another lost campaign rolls along. The question for the organization remains the same as it was the instant Derrick Rose went down Nov. 22 with a torn meniscus. How much is Deng, who will become a free agent at the end of this season, worth on the trade market -- and the open market?
Let's tackle the trade-market aspect of this first. I might be in a minority, but I'm still convinced that if the Bulls get the right package in return for Deng, they will deal him before the Feb. 20 trade deadline. The problem for them is that no team appears to be willing to give up a future first-round pick plus the expiring contracts it would take to get it done. The biggest hurdle for the Bulls in any potential Deng trade, aside from his impending free agency, is that he is making more than $14 million this season. That will take a lot of excess money to get something accomplished in order to make the numbers work. The Bulls love Deng, but they have a pretty clear indication that there is a wide gap between how they value him and how Deng and his agents value him in the future.
If the Bulls do indeed follow through and play out the year with Deng still on the roster, this is where things become even more interesting. The Bulls' biggest move this offseason will be to try to lure European star Nikola Mirotic over to Chicago. After that -- and depending on much money they'll have to use to bring Mirotic over -- they will need to decide what to do with Deng.
As Windhorst's report noted, the Bulls are still optimistic that they can work out an extension with Deng -- but how far are they willing to go? Deng's camp wants max money or close to it, while the Bulls are hoping for somewhere more in the $8-9 million range. If Deng was going to take a hometown discount, he would have already done it by now. The Bulls have to be privately confident that Deng's agents won't be able to find a team willing to pay the 28-year-old what he is looking for, especially given all the minutes he has played under Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau in the past couple years.
But at that point, even if the price came down to a level more palatable in the Bulls' eyes, would Deng be willing to come back to the organization for less money, or would he leave Chicago and get a fresh start somewhere else?
In the short term, a multimillion-dollar game of chicken continues to unfold for all of the league to see. If the Bulls change their stance regarding a possible trade, then the proud veteran will have to find his money somewhere else. If the Bulls stay the course and wait to see how the market plays out, then they gamble that they can get Deng to sign for the price they want later this upcoming summer. If he opts to go elsewhere, Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson will get crushed by an already frustrated fan base that watched as a two-time All-Star walked away for nothing.