The Bulls weren't going to compete for a title anyway after Derrick Rose's injury, but being defeated and admitting defeat are two entirely different things.
With that in mind, trading Deng may result in a bigger fallout for the Bulls than one might have anticipated. Although it's hard to fathom a vastly different team next year, the Deng trade just might have sparked a major re-tooling of the roster.
With a few valuable and movable pieces still on the roster, contenders with needs may already be lining up, according to Sam Amick of USA Today:
While forward Carlos Boozer could be waived via the league's amnesty clause during the offseason as yet another way to clear the Bulls' books, it appears point guard Kirk Hinrich will be drawing the most immediate interest when it comes to the Bulls' possible next move.
Whether it's Hinrich being moved or someone slightly more surprising, the Bulls look determined to be a seller at the deadline. Here's a look at the five most likely candidates the Bulls could trade this season.
The fact that Kirk Hinrich seems to be generating the most trade buzz tells us a few things.
The first is that he's probably the most available player currently on Chicago's roster. With an expiring deal at $4 million, he's exactly the type of cheap contributor a contending team can acquire to bolster its bench for a playoff run. Hinrich has been serviceable for the Bulls, but he's no longer needed given the new direction.
The second thing Hinrich's popularity tells us is that the Bulls probably aren't shopping Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah or Jimmy Butler.
Because of his knee issues and max salary, Rose probably wouldn't generate much interest right now even if the Bulls were interested in shopping him.
The fact that Butler is still on his rookie deal is a big plus for a cash-conscious franchise, so he's likely not going anywhere, either.
Noah would certainly attract a lot of suitors if he was floated on the market, but he's the heart and soul of Tom Thibodeau's defensive system and it's going to be hard to upgrade from him.
Those three players make up Chicago's core, so it makes sense that the Bulls are exploring ways to supplement that trio for the future. Any player who doesn't appear to factor into that future, like Deng, is available to be moved.
Considering how poorly he's playing, Hinrich probably won't bring back much in return. But for a Bulls team simply looking to get something instead of nothing for him, the price likely won't be very high at all.
Next on the list of affordable bench contributors is Mike Dunleavy. There probably isn't a team in the league that wouldn't want Dunleavy in its rotation, as he's a knockdown shooter from behind the arc and a pretty solid all-around player on a heavily discounted deal.
The primary complication in dealing Dunleavy is that he's stepping into a huge role with Deng out of the picture. While the Bulls may not have any aspirations of being a playoff team, they still need to provide Tom Thibodeau with competent players so he doesn't completely lose his mind.
Dunleavy qualifies in that regard, and his salary of $3.3 million next season won't put a strain on the books.
The asking price on Dunleavy should be substantially higher than it is for Hinrich, but the Bulls would probably have a hard time passing up a young player with potential on a rookie-scale contract in exchange for the 33-year-old small forward.
Carlos Boozer may seem out of place on this list, as the reason the Bulls haven't been able to trade him isn't because of a lack of effort.
Trading Deng might actually make a Boozer deal less likely, primarily because the Bulls can more easily justify using the amnesty provision on him next year in advance of highly regarded prospect Nikola Mirotic coming over. With more money available, Boozer could be in his last season with Chicago.
That being said, don't completely rule out a Boozer trade. A team with an unsavory long-term deal, like the Boston Celtics with Gerald Wallace's contract, could add a pick, make a move for Boozer and suck up the short-term payment to clear up more space for the future. It's unlikely, but not impossible.
Chances are, however, that the Bulls will either ride out Boozer's deal or use the amnesty this offseason. It's hard to imagine any team beating down the doors for him at this point.
Surprised? Taj Gibson could easily be added as one of the core members of the Bulls, but let's take a hard look at this before dismissing him as a trade target.
Gibson is often considered a young piece, but he'll be 29 years old next season. More importantly, he's on an ascending contract that will pay him nearly $9 million a year in the 2016-17 season, which may be a tad much if you factor in a decline in Gibson's athleticism.
While Gibson is certainly a good fit in Chicago right now, the presence of Mirotic could technically push him out. The Bulls probably aren't ready to pull the trigger on that yet with no guarantees in place that they'll have Mirotic (or that he's a capable starter), so Gibson is likely safe for now, barring an offer that can't be refused.
Gibson has long been waiting in the wings for a starting job, but don't be shocked if the Bulls at least flirt with the idea of moving him for younger, cheaper players and draft picks at some point.
Outside of Hinrich and possibly Dunleavy, a smaller trade may be the most likely deal the Bulls make.
He may not demand an awful lot on the trade market, but the Bulls don't seem to be in love with Marquis Teague. Although he has a lot of potential thanks to his quickness, he's very raw and will likely need a few more years to develop.
The Bulls may not have the patience to wait around, as finding a reliable and consistent point guard for the future behind Derrick Rose will probably be a priority.
It's hard to imagine the Bulls could get much more than a second-round pick for Teague, but that might be enough at this point. If Teague can't beat out D.J. Augustin for minutes, it's not a good sign for his immediate future with the Bulls. If a team likes what it sees out of Teague at the D-League Showcase, perhaps he'll be dealt.