Deng was Chicago’s biggest trade asset. Outside of another core member, the remaining players wouldn’t bring back as much loot but could land some talent that would help with the retooling for which the franchise seems to be preparing.
This roster could still use some younger help at the center position, another scorer who’s not just a spot-up shooter and even more cap room.
Other NBA teams are on the alert just in case the Bulls decide to keep exploring the market.
Playing off of the rumors first reported by Sam Amick of USAToday.com, there are some very promising possibilities still available.
One Contender Wins Now, Another Wins Later
The current Western Conference fifth seed does not have a wing scorer that they are willing to move, and the only big with whom they’re looking to part, Omer Asik, isn’t cap friendly, meaning there is nothing much that could be offered outside of draft picks.
Seeing as how the Rockets' success puts them in the lower third of this year's draft selection, it would probably take more than one pick to entice the Bulls.
Houston may be interested in Dunleavy, but it may not want to give away too much of its future for what would amount to about three years of play in return.
Besides, the Bulls have enough picks from other teams thanks to their recent Deng deal and a 2010 transaction with the Charlotte Bobcats.
After a while, the superfluous draft choices just become fodder for more trades, and franchise history says that Chicago’s current activity is more anomaly than new habit.
If the Bulls are open to dealing the 12-year veteran, they should look north of Houston to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
No one has reported that OKC is even actively looking for a trade, let alone eyeing Chicago's only free-agent signing from the summer of 2013, but there is a switch that could pay off big for both clubs.
The proposed trade—Mike Dunleavy for Jeremy Lamb.
The Thunder’s scoring in the games played since their All-Star point guard went out back in December has dropped to 100.4 points per game, down from the 106.3 they were averaging before his sudden departure.
Durant has had to pick up his offensive production averaging 34.5 points in the last 10 contests now that he is carrying the scoring load alone.
A veteran like Dunleavy could bring some, however minor, scoring relief and provide some quality rest time for Durant.
He would also be a boon for Westbrook since the forward's three-point shooting would help stretch the defense, opening up more driving lanes for the slashing guard.
In return, the Bulls would get a young, athletic scorer in Lamb whose ball-handling gives him the potential to be the other shot-creating guard the team has coveted for so long.
Adding him to a group that already includes Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell would give Chicago one of the most athletic collections of wing players in the league.
Oklahoma City could go for a trade like this because the inclusion of a productive veteran like Dunleavy would galvanize the second unit and elevate them to the level of play they need to make another deep playoff run.
The desire to win it all may be enough to hector the team into parting with some youth for an immediate payoff.
Since dealing Deng signals that the Bulls are now looking to phase two of a championship push with Rose at the helm, this trade would give them younger talent that can grow along with the remaining core.
A Two-for-One Deal
It’s a move that makes total sense for the Bay Area squad, seeing as how their backcourt is very young; an experienced, formidable player like Hinrich could have a positive impact both on the court and in the locker room.
Looking over the Warriors roster, they do have what the Bulls are looking for with players who can score, but it’s hard to believe that they would part with someone like Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson.
Their upside is too promising to give in to the win-now mentality; the team is young and deserves time to develop.
But all is not lost, for Golden State can help Chicago in another capacity—cap space.
That may be intriguing enough to work seeing as how financial pliability was a big part of Chicago’s deal with the Cavaliers.
Since the Bulls would be below the 13 player roster minimum by giving away a player for a lump sum of money, they would also need some talent to be included.
To address the need of getting younger in the middle, Chicago could request that center Ognjen Kuzmic be a part of the package.
While getting a seldom-used player for an experienced one like Hinrich may seem a bit lopsided, the Bosnian Serb big man has some upside.
The DraftExpress.com scouting report relays that he has a long wingspan, great energy and surprisingly agile footwork.
The site also says that in his last season overseas, Kuzmic averaged three blocks and 8.1 defensive rebounds per game.
Those numbers definitely indicate that he has the tools to be the solid defensive backup the team has lacked since losing Asik.
Kuzmic would still be a project for a couple seasons; on the other hand, recalling how head coach Tom Thibodeau developed the aforementioned Houston reserve suggests the same can be done with what is essentially a younger, nimbler player.
Now, trading away Hinrich does mean that the Bulls would have to move D.J. Augustin into the starting rotation and bring Marquis Teague back from the NBDL if they don't want to add another unsigned free agent.
It may not sound ideal to have to rely more on the former Kentucky Wildcat, but it would only be a temporary anguish lasting the rest of this season if he continues to underwhelm.
The Future Is Now
Rose’s injury has forced the hand of the Bulls management.
What was supposed to likely be the final push of their core players was over the second the Englewood native went down in Portland.
While Rose is recovering, it is imperative that the team intent on helping him make another title run is in place before he returns.
Deng is gone and nothing is changing that. Boozer could be on his way out this summer as the window for using the amnesty provision is quickly closing; however, that has been only speculation.
Chicago isn’t trying to make over the entire roster; the Bulls are trying to find the right balance of veteran, young and new talent that will usher in the next successful era.
The sooner a new-look Bulls squad can start playing together, the sooner championship-caliber basketball can return to Second City.
Note: All statistics are accurate as of January 14, 2014.