The Chicago Bulls had a small window to compete in, and this was it.
This was the lineup Bulls fans had been waiting on for years, and it was finally at full strength and ready for title contention.
Sadly enough, we only got to see it for about nine games.
Rose is out for the season after knee surgery, and now the Bulls' present and future is once again in flux.
Nobody symbolizes the uncertainty surrounding this version of the Bulls better than Deng. He's a productive player and a key cog in Tom Thibodeau's defensive system, but there's a good chance he'll be wearing another uniform before Rose is back in his.
Deng's expiring deal worth $14.2 million will be attractive on the trade market, but it's hard to tell what Chicago would want in return.
Will Rose's injury spell the end of Chicago's expensive core as management takes the opportunity to get younger and cheaper? Or will the Bulls try to stay afloat with Deng? Perhaps more unlikely, would Chicago move Deng for a piece that can better help them survive Rose's absence?
You can make the argument for any direction, and the Bulls haven't done much to indicate which way they will go.
If Chicago does decide to get value for Deng before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next season, here are a few suitors that might be interested.
The Cavs may have playoff aspirations, but they don't look anything like a playoff team so far this season.
Cleveland's defense hasn't made the strides that were expected with Mike Brown taking over as head coach, and a lack of scoring and playmaking on the wing isn't helping a stagnant offense.
Could Deng be a potential solution? He'd certainly be an upgrade from the likes of Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee, but perhaps more importantly, he wouldn't jeopardize Cleveland's cap space for next season, either.
Trading for Deng wouldn't stop the Cavs from leaving the light on for LeBron James, or for any other big free agent. Given the the types of deals the Cavs signed players to this season, that seems like a priority.
Form Chicago's side, Cleveland is an attractive trade partner because they are very far away from the luxury tax.
Sending Deng to Cleveland could give the Bulls a chance to drastically decrease their luxury tax payment this season, and maybe even come close to getting under the tax altogether if Kirk Hinrich was dealt in a follow-up deal.
But what could Chicago get back from Cleveland to make it worthwhile? Here's the trade:
Cleveland Receives: SF Deng (1 year/$14.2 million) and PF Erik Murphy (1 year/$490,180).
Chicago Receives: SF/PF Anthony Bennett (4 years/$24 million), SF Gee (1 year*/$3.2 million), C Tyler Zeller (3 years/$5.9 million) and a 2014 second-round draft pick.
*Gee is actually on a two-year deal, but the second season is completely nonguaranteed.
If the Bulls want to see how quickly Thibodeau can pack his bags at season's end, this would probably do the trick.
Another problem here is that the Bulls will almost certainly still be in the playoff picture at the trade deadline, and a move like this would submarine any hopes of title contention, however minuscule those may be without Rose.
Bennett has a lot of talent offensively, and adding Zeller as cheap frontcourt depth would plug some holes. If Chicago's front office prioritizes the lessening of the luxury tax payment and getting something for Deng before he walks, taking a chance on Bennett's potential might be a worthwhile investment.
New Orleans is another team who is desperate to make the playoffs now, but could also use cap space this offseason.
By acquiring Jrue Holiday for a 2014 first-round pick and signing Tyreke Evans to a long-term deal, the Pelicans' front office sent a strong signal that they're looking to compete this season.
The results have been mixed so far, but perhaps the Pelicans would jump at the opportunity to get Eric Gordon's deal off the books and add a real small forward who can rebound, defend and move without the ball.
Here's the trade:
New Orleans Receives: SF Deng (1 year/$14.2 million) and Hinrich (1 year/$4 million).
Chicago Receives: SG Eric Gordon (3 years*/$44.5 million) and Brian Roberts (1 year/$788,872).
*Gordon has a player option on his final year.
While this move wouldn't alleviate any future cap concerns for the Bulls, it would minimize the tax payment this season.
Doubling down on injury prone guards may not be the smartest idea, but Gordon has shown that he's a very capable scorer who can create for himself. He's also a very strong, solid defender, which might be a Thibodeau requirement in any trade involving Deng.
Although it looks unlikely now, there's a chance Gordon would exercise his player option on that third and final year (2015-16) to secure long-term financial security. Considering Gordon's health issues, that might be the prudent thing for him to do.
That could work in Chicago's favor, as Carlos Boozer and Gordon could come off the books at the same time, clearing $32 million in salary.
On New Orleans' side, this would allow Monty Williams to start Evans and put him next to a player who can be effective without the ball.
Trading Gordon for an expiring deal would also give New Orleans max cap space this offseason, which would clearly be enticing.
This may be way too much of a health and financial risk for Chicago, but a trio of Rose, Gordon and Butler on the perimeter is pretty explosive, at least in theory.
It may be more realistic that Chicago just decides to let Deng expire after this year for the cap relief it would bring.
Chicago should certainly still be a playoff team this year thanks to the crummy depth of the Eastern Conference, and Deng will be a huge part of the offense in Rose's absence.
Trading Deng may cause more problems than it will solve, at least for right now.
The wrong deal could further weaken the relationship between Thibodeau and the front office, and bringing back future salary might not be awfully appealing to ownership.
The Bulls would likely have to be out of the playoff hunt at the trade deadline or overwhelmed by an offer. At this point, neither of those scenarios seem likely.
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