Why were the Cavs swapping three draft picks for a 28-year-old small forward working with an expiring contract? Why did it make sense for them to land a one-season rental in the trade (that was reported by the Chicago Bulls' Twitter feed), especially during a season in which they trailed the two elite teams in the Eastern Conference by such a wide margin?
Well, the answer is pretty simple.
That wouldn't make sense, but that's not the plan.
The Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer reveals that general manager Chris Grant's vision is to make Deng a piece of the long-term puzzle:
We're bringing him here and we'd like to keep him here long term. He's 28 years old. We see him as part of our core and our youth moving forward. We'll get through the season and get into those conversations at the appropriate time.
Okay, now that makes more sense.
After all, Deng is the key defensive wing that Cleveland has been searching for and is quite valuable on offense—especially when paired with a dynamic point guard. You know, like Kyrie Irving.
"Obviously, he comes from a strong defensive system. He has a strong defensive presence himself, leading scorer of his team," Grant acknowledged to Boyer. "So it's an exciting time for us."
Bleacher Report's David Murphy broke down what the trade meant for Cleveland's playoff hopes and concluded that the Cavs could basically count on advancing to the postseason this season, which was essentially the team's goal heading into 2013-14.
He's not the only one with that opinion:
Also, if the Cavs, in this effing Eastern Conference, with Luol Deng, don't make the playoffs, burn down the Q for the insurance money.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 7, 2014
Obviously, a playoff berth would be nice for this beleaguered franchise, one that hasn't experienced much success since LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach.
But as Grant made clear, that's not all that the Cavs are looking for from Deng.
It's about next season and beyond, when Irving and Dion Waiters have more experience under their belts. When Anthony Bennett is actually ready to play at the NBA level. When Tristan Thompson has continued improving and the cap space has been used both to re-sign Deng and add more valuable pieces.
That means that the question shifts. It's no longer about the why; it's now about the how.
As in, how are the Cavs going to convince Deng to stay once his contract expires?