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When Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, part of a swap that also included Andrew Bynum, the Chicago Bulls also gained the ability to switch picks with the Cavs in the first-round of the 2015 NBA draft, under one condition. If the Cavs had a top-15 pick, the swap would no longer be legal.
Well, now that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are set to form the NBA's newest Big Three, that protection seems rather irrelevant. There's virtually no chance Cleveland misses the playoffs, barring a ridiculous string of season-ending injuries to key players.
But will Chicago want to make the switch?
Chances are, these two teams will finish in the top two spots in the Eastern Conference, rendering any swap rather irrelevant. At most, they'll be separated by only a few picks, depending on the gap in records and the success of teams in the Western Conference.
"He's the best player in the game, but that being said, I think we have a chance to beat them. And that's the goal. We want to beat LeBron James, we want to beat the Miami Heat, we want to beat all those teams who are in our way," Joakim Noah told ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell after the four-time MVP joined the Cavs. "He's obviously one of the big obstacles."
Chicago is fully capable of fulfilling Noah's desires. In fact, the Bulls should still be favored in the Eastern Conference, even after Love joined the party in Northeast Ohio. And therein lies a problem.
Getting Love wasn't cheap, and the Cavaliers had to give up a first-round pick in order to do so, not just swap one. When the deal is made official on August 23 (once Andrew Wiggins can be dealt), the world will learn about what type of protections cover that 2015 first-round pick that will be shipped off to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, it's highly unlikely the pick is anything more than top-20 protected, and the Cavs aren't finishing the season with anything less than a top-10 record in the Association. This isn't a guarantee until the protection specifications are made public and official, but it's highly likely the Cavs will end up without a first-round pick next summer.
Whether they lay claim to their own pick or Chicago's, it'll just be transferred over to the 'Wolves.
Likelihood of Transfer: Tossup (for Chicago), probably just about guaranteed (for Minnesota)