In a surprising move, the Chicago Bulls announced late last Monday night that they had traded two-time, All-Star Small Forward, Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Center, Andrew Bynum, two future second round draft picks (Portland Trailblazers’ 2015 and 2016), a protected Sacramento Kings’ pick that could be either a first or second round pick depending on where the Kings’ drafts are in 2014-2017, and the right to swap first round picks with the Cavs in the 2015 draft (lottery protected). They dumped Bynum immediately before the second half of his $12.3 million contract becomes guaranteed today, and they now have some flexibility, because they save $15 million they can maybe use that to make a splash in free agency this coming summer.
It is surprising, because the Bulls were finally healthy, had started to find their rhythm offensively, and this rumor of Deng getting traded to the Cavs had been creeping up since November. On the other hand though, trade talks increased after last week when Deng’s representatives rejected an offer from the Bulls for him to be paid $10 million annually over the next three or four years, since he would become a free agent this summer. This will start the rebuilding process to what the Bulls’ management is hoping is a second championship window, after the first one closed, when Derrick Rose tore his meniscus back in November.
“We have a 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 Bulls organization I want to thank Luol for his years in Chicago,” said General Manager Gar Forman. “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.”
Deng played only one year at Duke University. He then was drafted in the 2004 NBA Draft, at number seven, by the Phoenix Suns, but was traded to the Bulls immediately after. He ends up fourth on the team’s all-time leaders in scoring, and in the top ten on the team in ten categories, which includes steals, blocks, rebounds, and three-pointers.
Let’s face it, as much as it is a sad day in Chicago sports, the Bulls were not going to let him walk away in free agency, and get nothing in return for it. Some think they should have waited until the end of the year to deal him if it came down to it. Here’s wishing him the very best in the future.