After years of trade rumors, the Chicago Bulls finally parted ways with Luol Deng on Monday night, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The list of assets that the Bulls acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers may not excite fans right now, but all in all, it was a good trade.
Chicago received Andrew Bynum, three future draft picks and major salary savings. The team stands to save $20 million, and it added a Cavs future first-round draft pick that was owed by the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls will get the pick if it falls outside the top 12 in 2014 or outside the top 10 in 2015, 2016 or 2017.
Chicago also got the 2015 and 2016 second-round picks owed to the Cavs from the Portland Trail Blazers. Lastly, the Bulls will be able to swap draft spots with Cleveland in 2015 as long as the latter's pick is outside the top 14.
There are a lot of ifs involved, but the Bulls had to make this deal after Deng turned down a contract extension that would have paid him $10 million per season over the next three years, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
The Bulls aren't keeping Bynum. They'll waive him almost immediately, and he'll be a free agent by the end of the week. The Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Miami Heat are said to be interested in his services.
This trade puts the Bulls in position to tank this season but not in the 2014-15 campaign. Here are two realistic moves that Chicago could make moving forward. The combination would put the team in position to be even better next season than they would have been this year—even before Derrick Rose's injury.
Amnestying Carlos Boozer
Boozer doesn't deserve the beating he takes from many Bulls fans or the mistreatment from head coach Tom Thibodeau. He has never been a stellar defender, yet the Bulls gave him a five-year, $80 million deal in 2010.
When he's on the floor, he does what he always has: score and rebound at a high rate. Yet, he's Chicago's favorite whipping boy when the team falters because of his consistently mediocre defense.
As a Bull, Boozer is averaging 18.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. The only issue is that he has never averaged more than 32.2 minutes per game with Chicago.
Even beyond all that, he is headed into the final year of the aforementioned deal. He is scheduled to make $16.8 million in 2014-15. That's too much to pay him—even if the team were having more success than it currently is.
Rumors that Boozer will be amnestied at the end of this season have been floating for the past year. The concept was recently validated when The New York Times published the rumor definitively in the same article that projected the now official Deng trade:
They intend on using their amnesty move this coming summer to part ways with Carlos Boozer. Boozer is scheduled to make $16.8 million next season. As we reported earlier, Derrick Rose has caught wind of the plans and is none too thrilled about being part of a rebuilding project. Tom Thibodeau won’t be very happy with it, either.
As for the trade rumors and amnesty talk, Boozer knows the drill. He told ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell:
It's just part of the business. Twelve years in the league, you're going to hear rumors about you or your teammates. I've been through it a thousand times. It's just something you deal with. Just kind of block everything out and just try to hoop.
Get your team as high up as you can. Whatever happens is going to happen, it's part of the business. This is the business side of basketball that a lot of fans don't understand, a lot of media don't understand. But that's part of the business.
Some fans—and Rose—may consider this a rebuilding period, but that doesn't seem like the right word for what the Bulls seem prepared to do. As good as Deng and Boozer have been, moving and/or releasing them doesn't mean the Bulls are starting from scratch.
With more financial flexibility and a ton of draft picks, Chicago is in a position to make deals for impact players, sign free agents and draft one or two impact rookies in the upcoming draft.
With a core of Rose, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have talented players. Adding one to three younger, more athletic impact players with their newly acquired assets could easily make the team better.
One other addition could really push the Bulls up another notch in the 2014-15 season.
Most Bulls fans are familiar with the name Nikola Mirotic. Up to now, he may have been viewed as just another European project that isn't worth thinking too much about, unless he arrives in Chicago and puts on the uniform.
With the Deng trade and potential amnesty of Boozer, Mirotic's arrival seems even more certain.
Chicago can't afford to fail to bring him stateside. He's been lighting up the Euroleague this season. In just 23 minutes of action, he is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 61 percent from the field, 59.4 percent from three-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line.
He's a stretch 4 with good ball-handling and passing skills. He'll turn just 23 in February, so this is the best time to get him into a Bulls uniform. There are buyout issues, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News discusses in his post-Deng trade analysis, but he paints a realistic picture for the Bulls:
This is the start of a major revamp of the franchise. The Bulls are planning on having Mirotic on hand eventually, hopefully starting this summer. They are planning on getting injured star guard Derrick Rose back, too, and without Deng, it is possible that the team will sink low enough in the standings to push their pick in the upcoming draft into the top 10, with Charlotte’s pick coming, too, should the Bobcats stay out of the top 10.
Getting Mirotic is key for making this upcoming wave of moves successful. The team hasn't had the greatest luck in signing high-level free agents. It's good that most of the plan wouldn't be predicated on getting the LeBrons and Carmelos of the NBA world to sign with the Bulls.
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