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Breaking Down the Chicago Bulls' Best Trade Bait

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Breaking Down the Chicago Bulls' Best Trade Bait
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Which Bulls could be on their way out of Chicago?

All it took was one blow, one false step—one Derrick Rose injury—to derail the Chicago Bulls' 2013-14 season.

With no significant Plan B, Chicago instantly transformed from championship contenders to an array of spare parts. Its next course of action may be to blow it up all together, and get long-term returns for pieces that were originally meant to aid Rose in Chicago's pursuit of a ring—a pursuit that was squashed before it ever even started.

The Bulls are a few million dollars over the luxury tax line, so part of the thought process could be to shed roughly $9 million in salary via trade. The roster is littered with players that could be viable pieces on contending teams—much like the Bulls were supposed to be this season—and could presumably be dealt without much trouble. 

Blog A Bull of SB Nation recently explained what may be ahead for Chicago in terms of potential deals:

Is your team a buyer or seller?

The Bulls are usually a stand-patter above all else. They're nothing if not deliberate. But in this season where Rose's exploding knee (no, the other one) has doomed the last chance for this particular supporting cast they're certainly not buyers.

On a roster level, you could conceive ways the Bulls could try and snag helpful players with an aim towards next season, but financially it likely just couldn't work. While I don't think they will do trades to intentionally make themselves worse this season, they will look to perhaps deal players who won't be around long-term for middling assets. Or do nothing.

Ahead are some of the players Chicago would have the least trouble parting with. 

 

Luol Deng

Rose's second serious knee injury in a year and a half could directly impact Luol Deng more than any other Bull.

Deng is playing on a $14 million expiring salary this season and could be the most attractive player, besides Rose, on Chicago's roster. At only 28, Deng still has a number of productive years left, and it's still unknown whether the Bulls will extend a significant offer to re-sign him. 

Last month, Deng conceded that his trade likelihood essentially skyrocketed once Rose went down. 

"That's part of the [deal]," he said to ESPN Chicago on Nov. 27. "Since I've been in the league it's always—every year it's a possibility [of being dealt], anything can happen. It's unfortunate we're going through what we're going through but it is what it is. It happens. You got to deal with it. But in terms of things changing, you can't worry about that as a player."

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Could Deng boost the Suns into the West's playoff conversation?

Deng is shooting better from the field than he did last season and is scoring nearly 20 per game, while posting a career-high 4.1 assists. His seven boards per contest are the second most he's put up for a season. Deng has also been known to lock up on the opposition's best wing player with great success.

If the Bulls choose, they could simply hold on to Deng, let his $14 million expire and move on. But it's not outside the realm of possibility that a contending team would surrender draft picks and/or younger pieces to rent Deng for the stretch run.

A team that could be one significant move away from playoff status, and one that also has a bounty of draft picks available to trade, is the Phoenix Suns. Sliding Deng into Phoenix's 3 slot along with the productive backcourt duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe would make Phoenix a deeper, more complete unit. The Suns have Emeka Okafor, another expiring deal, to make the money match, and could include Archie Goodwin as young talent—to go along with draft selections—to entice Chicago.

Deng is likely available, but it's yet to be seen which direction Chicago wants to go in years to come. The two-time All-Star has been with the team since he was drafted with the seventh overall pick in 2004.

 

Mike Dunleavy

If they haven't already, contending teams will likely be blowing up Gar Forman's phone inquiring about Mike Dunleavy between now and February. Dunleavy took a severe pay cut to play with what was purported to be a championship-caliber Bulls team, and is in the first season of a two-year, $6.5 million pact. 

Playoff offenses are always in need of good perimeter shooting to space the offense, and Dunleavy would undoubtedly fill that need. The 33-year-old has cooled off since his sizzling start over the first 12 games, when he shot 48 percent from the field and 51 from three-point land. On the season, he's put up four threes a game and sunk a respectable 38.5 percent through 24 games. 

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Dunleavy could add value to a team contending for bigger things.

He's a 37-percent shooter from three over his career, and 40 percent since 2007-08. The 12-year vet doesn't have much playoff experience, but did shoot 43 percent from downtown with the Milwaukee Bucks during their first round ouster to the eventual champion Miami Heat in four games. According to NBA.com, the Bulls' offense is more than a point better per 100 possessions with him on the floor this year. 

A potential deal sending Dunleavy to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Nick Collison could be feasible, as could one between Chicago and the Indiana Pacers involving a possible Dunleavy-for-Chris Copeland swap. Copeland hasn't managed to crack the rotation under Frank Vogel, and could use time under Tom Thibodeau on a mediocre Bulls team to round out his defensive game. The two players' offensive skill sets are similar.

Dunleavy isn't a complete liability on defense and is on an extremely team-friendly contract. If the Bulls come across an offer that includes expiring deals, they'd likely consider that route too.

 

Kirk Hinrich

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

With Carlos Boozer and the $31 million he's still owed on the border of untradeable, and Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson valued highly within the organization, Kirk Hinrich remains as one of the final realistic trade options for Chicago. 

Hinrich is another expiring deal, playing on a $4 million salary this season. He could provide value to a playoff team that would need help at both positions in the backcourt—namely the Miami Heat. 

Miami recently expressed interest in swapping out Joel Anthony for backcourt help, given Dwyane Wade's uneasy health situation—this according to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst earlier in December.

Anthony-for-Hinrich works under the cap, but taking on two seasons of Anthony's salary would be a tough pill to swallow for Chicago. Miami has a slew of second round draft picks it could include in the deal, but it's unknown if either team would be interested in such a swap. 

Who will Chicago trade before the deadline?

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There have been hints (via ESPN's Chris Broussard) of Chicago being a potential destination for disgruntled Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters, and Hinrich could be part of a deal that would grant Waiters' trade wishes. 

Including Hinrich and rookie Tony Snell would work on financial grounds for Waiters, then it'd be up to the two front offices to negotiate a package that works for both sides. The 32-year-old Hinrich could act as a serviceable understudy to Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack in the Cavs' playoff pursuit.

With Hinrich being asked to shoulder much of the load in Chicago sans Rose, his numbers have dipped dramatically. He's shooting just 34 percent from the field and 29 percent from the arc in 32 minutes nightly—though he's a career 38-percent shooter from deep. He's dished out five assists per contest this year, which is consistent with his mark from last season, so there is some playmaking value there.

The Bulls will have a few decisions to make as the season moves forward. There will be trade options available, but management will need to settle on the franchise's direction before any moves can be signed off on.

Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.

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