You wouldn't think that the Chicago Bulls would start shipping off some of its most talented players, not with the core of the team mostly in its prime. With a healthy Derrick Rose, the Bulls are still championship contenders.
But according to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, the Bulls may look to trade Luol Deng or Joakim Noah:
The Bulls want to give Omer Asik and Taj Gibson new deals, so they're exploring ways to trade Luol Deng and/or Joakim Noah to teams that can send them a trade exception and a No. 1 pick.
The Bulls may request a bag of peanuts and a case of Bud Light be included in the deal.
Seriously, why would the Bulls essentially give away two vital players like Deng and Noah? Deng was second on the team in scoring and is one of the best defensive players in the league, while Noah led the squad in rebounding and was good for just under a double-double on the year (10.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG).
As always, were this rumor to come true it would be because of money, namely to avoid a 2015 repeater tax. Matt Moore from Pro Basketball Talk explains:
If Bulls ownership is looking to cut future salary to ensure their ability to get under the luxury tax to avoid the repeater tax in 2015, they can get Asik and Gibson for cheaper deals overall than Deng and Noah. Deng’s got $27 million owed over the next two seasons, Noah is owed $48 million over the next four. Moving either one and having Asik and Gibson could help them keep the core together and avoid the repeater tax, especially if they amnesty Carlos Boozer.
As Moore explains, other teams could bid on Boozer once he was amnestied, meaning the Bulls could be off the hook for a portion of his salary and still be safe from the repeater penalty with Noah and Deng off the books.
It's possible that the Bulls could look to move one of the two—given the fact that they would be doing this to extend Asik and Gibson, my guess is that Noah would be the first option—but I can't imagine this team would potentially cripple its championship chances to move both.
What they need is a legitimate, prominent scorer to pair with Rose. Boozer isn't that guy and is thus expendable. The Bulls can also duplicate much of Noah's production given the team's frontcourt depth should they actually move him, which still seems unlikely at best. Deng should be retained for his defense and the fact that he is good for 15 points a night.
In a year lacking quality free agents, the Bulls' options are limited in that regard. Ray Allen would certainly be a good fit. Unless he wants a hefty, short-term contract, that is.
The Bulls shouldn't go dismantling the team's core just yet, and frankly, I don't think they will. If they do, it will be a mistake.
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