The Chicago Bulls had a terrific core of players, but all good things must come to an end eventually. With Derrick Rose likely missing another season, the Bulls opted to shake things up by sending forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum. Chicago will almost certainly waive the center, with financial security being the central objective. It's disappointing to say the least, but it's clear the Bulls are ready to usher in a new era of Chicago basketball.
The trade, first reported by RealGM's Shams Charania and later confirmed by ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, will net the Bulls a plethora of draft picks as well as Bynum. According to the report, Chicago will waive him to save more than $20 million in luxury tax and salary.
Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears, "the Bulls also acquired the Sacramento Kings' 2014 first-round pick (protected 1-12), the Portland Trail Blazers 2015 and '16 second-round picks and the right to swap first-round picks with the Cavaliers in 2015 if the Cavs' pick is outside the top 14."
The bundle of picks range in value depending on the success of other teams, but the acquisition of them is important nonetheless.
The Bulls are hardly in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, as the team ranks No. 6 in the Eastern Conference with a 14-18 record. The East has been less than impressive to say the least, as seen with Chicago being in the playoff picture despite a poor win-loss record.
As such, this deal points more to the Bulls embracing a new identity over tearing the roster apart. Deng had been a key contributor for almost a decade, going all the way back to his drafting in 2004. While it's undoubtedly disappointing for Chicago fans to see him leave, the roster is still relatively youthful.
Deng is still just 28 years old but remains a veteran player by many standards. His absence will allow others, like Jimmy Butler or Tony Snell, to come forward and contribute on the perimeter. Snell has a ways to go to being a well-rounded player but remains a competent "three and D" player for the Bulls.
Butler, on the other hand, has shown flashes of brilliance on both sides of the ball. His 6'7" frame is a huge advantage defensively, much like Deng's 6'8" stature, so moving Butler over to the small forward position could be envisioned.
Deng is a much more competent scorer than Butler, but the former was very much like the latter early on in his career. Many are swift to condemn this deal, as it's seemingly Deng walking away leaving Chicago empty-handed.
Ultimately, this deal is the first step in what will be a "mini" rebuild. The New York Daily News has reported the Bulls intend to amnesty forward Carlos Boozer this summer, which would leave just Rose and Joakim Noah from the core of players the Bulls looked to build with.
For argument's sake, it wouldn't be overly far-fetched to compare what this Chicago team will become with the Oklahoma City Thunder in recent years. The Bulls will retain the core contributors like Rose, Noah and Taj Gibson, who remain talented and young players.
Butler and Snell are on the rise, and the acquisition of the aforesaid draft picks would bring in more young talent to fill out the roster. The 2014 NBA draft is expected to feature some talented prospects, which extend all the way through as opposed to a top-heavy draft class.
Chicago has been a veteran-laden team the past few seasons, which has ultimately become the team identity. The defensive intensity brought on board by coach Tom Thibodeau helped with this, as the Bulls ceased to be a youth-concentrated team.
With this trade it would seem Chicago will go in the opposite direction, and focus on drafting and developing prospects over securing veteran players.
Chicago doesn't need to secure likes of Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, but (without being dismissive) the addition of either would be phenomenal. Realistically, though, the Bulls could still have one or two lottery picks in the upcoming draft.
As previously mentioned, the placing of said picks depends on where the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats finish in their respective conferences. The Sacramento pick is top-12 protected, per the report from Yahoo! Sports, with the Bobcats pick being top-10 protected, per NBADraft.net.
If the Kings' new acquisition of Rudy Gay pays off, they could move up in the standings and provide Chicago with their pick. Sacramento currently ranks second-last in the Western Conference, so it would need to be a drastic improvement.
Charlotte is just a half-game behind the Bulls for No. 7 in the East, which would ultimately leave the pick out of the top 10 and into the hands of Chicago.
On the surface, the trade of Deng seems one-sided in Cleveland's favor. Yet with a deeper look, the intentions of the Bulls are evident in that the team is headed in a new direction. It isn't a total rebuild, as Chicago already has top-10 players at both point guard and center in Rose and Noah.
Gibson and Butler are terrific complementary players, and both could still push their ceilings higher. The past few seasons have been hard for the Bulls, with disappointing playoff runs and the injuries to Rose.
Yet the future is bright, and the next era of Chicago basketball looks to overshadow the bad.
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