With chatter picking up that the Chicago Bulls may be shopping All-Star small forward Luol Deng, Bulls fans can only hope that management does its homework and brings back the best package available in return for the one-time "untouchable" glue guy (h/t Sports Illustrated).
While Deng is arguably the Bulls most consistent and second best player, he is by no means irreplaceable. His defensive prowess would be missed as it would be much harder to replace than his offensive game, but the team will end up in a better position for the long term goal of multiple championships without his salary.
The key to any trade of Deng is finding the right package to take in return for his services.
A 3-way trade between Chicago, the team rumored to have interest in Deng, the Sacramento Kings and the team who formerly inquired about Chicago's backup center, (Omer Asik via trade) the Houston Rockets, would benefit all three teams.
This trade would involve three teams, six players, three draft picks and three sign and trade deals. This is actually fairly straight forward.
Receives: Tyreke Evans (G), Jason Thompson (C), the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft from Sacramento and the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft from Houston.
Loses: Luol Deng (SF), C.J. Watson (PG), Omer Asik (C) and 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Receives: Luol Deng (SF) from Chicago and Goran Dragic (PG) from Houston.
Loses: Tyreke Evans (G), Jason Thompson (C) and the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Receives Omer Asik (C), C.J. Watson (PG) and 29th pick in the NBA Draft from Chicago.
Loses: Goran Dragic (PG) and 16th pick in 2012 NBA Draft.
Why Make Trade
Chicago would move Luol Deng and pick up two young assets to replace him. Through the trade, the Bulls get something they have been searching for over the past few years—an explosive future shooting guard in Tyreke Evans. Chicago can then use the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to select North Carolina's Harrison Barnes to be Deng's successor at small forward.
Barnes may not be the defender Deng is, but he looks to be a much more prolific scorer than Deng could ever have been even in his prime. Pairing Evans and Barnes with Rose will definitely take offensive pressure off of Derrick and create a much more balanced offensive attack.
Chicago could use the 16th pick in the NBA Draft it receives from Houston on an offensive-minded power forward to either replace Gibson at the end of next year when he is a free agent, or to pair along with Gibson after next year, should the Bulls finally elect to amnesty boozer. Chicago could also elect to go in a completely different direction and draft a point guard to backup Rose.
The Bulls would trade Asik and Watson to Houston. Since Chicago will not have the cap space to retain Asik this off-season, a sign and trade deal would be their best avenue for receiving good compensation for his departure.
Houston is facing the departure of backup point guard Goran Dragic this off-season and will need a new backup point guard. Houston could sign and trade Dragic to Sacramento and receive C.J. Watson from Chicago to be Kyle Lowry's backup at point guard.
For facilitating the point guard swap and sending the 16th pick in then 2012 NBA draft to Chicago, Houston would get the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and its coveted defensive-minded center, Asik, to pair with power forward Luis Scola.
Through the trade, Houston essentially selects Asik with the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA draft and gets to keep its 14th pick in the 2012 NBA draft to use on the most dynamic player available at 14. Dragic is then essentially swapped for Watson and the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Sacramento gets a hard working and reliable All-Star player to play alongside and mentor the gifted duo of Marcus Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins in Loul Deng. Although it will cost the Kings Evans and the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, moving Evans also clears more playing time for Thornton and replaces him with a no drama player in Deng. Moreover, Loul is in his prime and can be an immediate contributor to the Kings unlike the potential fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Adding Deng is great, but the player that puts Sacramento over the top in terms of making the trade is the acquisition of Dragic's services as their starting point guard. He can step in and be the starter day one while the team continues to assess Isaiah Thomas. For the right to add the point guard, Sacramento would sign and trade Jason Thompson to Chicago to be used as Noah's backup and Asik's replacement.
Overall, all three teams come out of this trade as winners. All three teams convert potential free agent losses into team assets through the sign and trade arrangements. Finally, all three teams end up stronger and more well rounded teams for the 2012-13 NBA season.
Sacramento turns Evans, free agent Thompson and the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft into a 2012-13 starting lineup of Goran Dragic (PG), Marcus Thornton (SG), Luol Deng (SF), DeMarcus Cousins (PF) and Chuck Hayes (C).
Houston turns backup free agent Dragic and the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft (they still own the 14th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft) into a replacement backup point guard Watson, the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and the team's 2012-13 starting center Asik.
Chicago turns Deng, Watson, free agent Asik and 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft into a 2012-13 starting lineup (forgetting Rose's injury) of Derrick Rose (PG), Tyreke Evans (SG), Harrison Barnes (SF), Carlos Boozer (PF) and Joakim Noah (C).
Chicago also obtains Jason Thompson as Asik's replacement and the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to use on a scoring power forward (think Kentucky's Terrence Jones, Misissippi State's Arnett Moultrie, Baylor's Perry Jones III or Ohio State's Jared Sullinger) or a backup point guard (think North Carolina's Kendall Marshall or Washington's Tony Wroten Jr.).