Best Potential Trade Targets for Chicago Bulls in Luol Deng Deal
Luol Deng, you're the next contestant on "Will He or Won't He Be Traded?"
Come on down!
The Bulls’ game-plan for the immediate future is coming into focus. League sources with knowledge of Chicago’s plans say that they’ll definitely be looking to deal Luol Deng before the Feb. 20 trading deadline. Deng is a free agent this summer and the Bulls don’t want to pay him anything close to top dollar.
Chicago has waffled back and forth on this subject since contract negotiations between Deng and the organization broke down. More fuel has been added to the already blazing fire in wake of Derrick Rose's injury.
The Bulls clearly won't be winning a title this season, and receiving value for a player who could be leaving makes sense for a team stuck in the throes of transition.
But what type of value can the Bulls get in return for Deng? Who or what should Chicago demand?
"I definitely want to stay here [Chicago]," Deng said in November, via Chris Broussard, writing for ESPN Chicago. "I would love to play here my whole career."
Remaining in Chicago is a distinct possibility, but developing circumstances have made Deng's potential departure equally plausible.
First Thing's First
What are the Bulls going to demand for Deng?
Despite conflicting reports, we know he's not untouchable. Where there's smoke, there's fire, and those in the immediate vicinity of Deng are burning up.
Chicago is also in a unique situation because they're potentially inclined to take any Deng trade a number of different routes.
The Bulls—who are more than $7.5 million over the NBA's $71.7 million luxury-tax threshold—could look for a salary dump in hopes of avoiding punitive taxes. They could also simply look to capitalize off a departure they deem inevitable, seek a positional upgrade, nab someone who is within their price range moving forward or some combination of everything we just listed.
Or they could flat-out tank, probing for nothing other than draft picks and financial relief.
Depending which direction the Bulls are looking to traverse, terms of Deng's departure will vary drastically, significantly impacting who they look to snag in return.
Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Dion Waiters isn't necessarily Bulls material.
Defense isn't his strong suit and he's known to have an itchy trigger finger, something that visibly drove Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wild in the year he spent coaching Nate Robinson. But he's a high-scoring guard who would inject some much-needed offense into Chicago's 29th-ranked attack.
Obtaining another defense-first swingman isn't a necessity either, assuming the Bulls plan on retaining Jimmy Butler. His two-way ceiling makes him the perfect "replacement" if Chicago opts for scoring over balanced double-ended production.
It doesn't hurt that Waiters is only 22, a former top-four pick and substantially cheaper than Deng, who is earning over $14 million this season. Waiters was also linked to Chicago in late November, when Broussard reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers were shopping him and looking into Deng's availability.
Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster came up with a nifty three-team trade that saw the Bulls grab Waiters while allowing them to shed some serious salary:
Chicago Bulls Receive: SG Dion Waiters (3 years, $13 million), SF Earl Clark (2 years, $8.5 million*) and SG C.J. Miles (1 year, $2.2 million**).
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: SG Kirk Hinrich (1 year, $4.1 million), SF Alonzo Gee (2 years, $6.2 million*), C Tyler Zeller (3 years, $4.3 million), C Andrew Bynum (2 years, $24.8 million**) and Cleveland's 2015 first-round pick (via Miami).
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: PF Pau Gasol (1 year, $19.2 million), SF Luol Deng (1 year, $14.3 million), C Robert Sacre (3 years, $2.6 million) and PF Erik Murphy (2 years, $1.3 million).
*Next year non-guaranteed.
**This season's deal non-guaranteed before January 7.
This doesn't have to be the deal, but it's one worth considering, especially if Chicago can extract a draft pick out of the equation.
Point is, if the Bulls are looking for cap relief in conjunction with promising talent in return, Waiters should be considered a viable target.
Jeff Green, Boston Celtics
Jeff Green is someone the Bulls should target if they're looking to keep their current core intact.
As an athletic wing who can man either forward position, Green fits the bill for what Chicago's lineup would need in Deng's absence. At 27, he's young enough where the Bulls shouldn't mind investing another two years in him beyond 2013-14, but seasoned enough where he can be valuable on a team looking to contend after this year.
Deng also fits into what the Boston Celtics are currently doing. His contract comes off the books after this season, at which point they could attempt to re-sign him, potentially ushering in a new era around him and Rajon Rondo, or reap the cap benefits, knowing they still have Gerald Wallace under lock and key through 2015-16.
Another contract must be included in any deal (Jordan Crawford, perhaps?), but Green, whose annual salary won't exceed $9.2 million through 2015-16, makes sense for the Bulls.
The Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley wrote in December that the Bulls valued Deng at around $7-8 million annually. Deng could command eight figures a year on the open market, making Green—who was dangled in Omer Asik trade talks, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein—a more financially affable asset.
Sticking to their fiscal guns without sacrificing potential impact won't be easy for the Bulls. But if they make a play for Green, it's possible.
2014 First-Rounder, Phoenix Suns
This one could be awesome.
The Phoenix Suns could be the proud owners of up to four first-round picks this summer if their commitments with the Minnesota Timberwolves (top-13 protected), Washington Wizards (top-12 protected) and Indiana Pacers (lottery protected) pan out. At the very least, they're looking at two picks—their own and Indy's.
Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com says the Suns, who are shockingly in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture, would be open to dealing any one of them in exchange for a star.
Deng is your atypical star, a prominent grind-it-out player who won't always put up gaudy stat lines. But he's still a star, and could be worth the inclusion of a late first-round commitment like Indy's if the Suns are confident they can re-sign him.
Players would, of course, have to be included. Goran Dragic and Gerald Green are two names that spring to mind, but Phoenix has an array of movable assets on reasonable deals, along with the ability to absorb some extra salary. Ironing out a package wouldn't be difficult if both sides are interested.
If we're to believe the Bulls are actually interested in rebuilding, amassing draft picks through deals like these are a good place to start.
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
Something about this deal makes me say "do it."
The San Antonio Spurs aren't known for making midseason splashes. Coach Gregg Popovich's contingent prides themselves on stability and continuous success, never wavering in function or effort.
But according to CSN Chicago's Aggrey Sam, San Antonio is among the teams interested in acquiring Deng. If true, Danny Green would be a nice start to any package.
Salary obligations won't allow for a straight-up trade, but a proposal built around Green and the contracts of Boris Diaw and Nando de Colo could get the ball rolling. Problem is, while that deal saves the Bulls under $4 million in addition to landing them a valuable three-and-D guy in Green, it doesn't bring them under the dreaded luxury-tax line. If a deal cannot be hammered out between the two that does bring Chicago under the line, the inclusion of a first-rounder is essential.
Alas, more possible hiccups.
San Antonio isn't one to deal first-round selections, though it could make an exception for a two-time All-Star like Deng, who would pair nicely with the budding Kawhi Leonard within a Spurs system predicated on selflessness and off-ball movement.
Owed under $7.8 million through next season, Green is well within Chicago's price range. His stock has plummeted this year, but he's still shooting a formidable 39.4 percent from deep in limited playing time, markedly above the Bulls' collective average of 32.2.
Playing him alongside Rose and Butler gives the Bulls a lethal trio to build around without breaking the bank and increasing the value of this summer's draft pick in the process. If San Antonio is confident it can re-sign Deng, and Chicago convinces R.C. Buford to include a future first-rounder, this seems like a no-brainer.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Absolutely going here. Please, won't you come with me?
I'm not here to tell you the New York Knicks will entertain a Carmelo Anthony trade. I'm not even here to tell you they should. Form your own opinion there. But before you do, read Howard Beck of Bleacher Report's piece on why the Knicks can/should/may consider moving him. It's beyond informative.
Once you've taken that in—seriously, do it—understand we're here to talk about "what if," as in "what if the Knicks decide to trade 'Melo?"
Well, then, the Bulls could be a potential trade partner.
Dealing for a player like Anthony, who can and will hit unrestricted free agency this summer is risky—but not really. We know Anthony wants to play in a big market, limiting his options. Marc Berman of the New York Post even wrote that Anthony is most intrigued by Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, specifically.
The Los Angeles Lakers should be able to create enough cap space to sign 'Melo, but seeing him in purple and gold is unrealistic at this point. Kobe Bryant's recent bouts with mortality, coupled with Mike D'Antoni's continued presence and Los Angeles' inability to assemble a talented supporting cast around the potential duo, hinders any sales pitch.
Which brings us to Chicago, and the assets the Bulls can offer. Below is a potential trade that both teams could find mutually beneficial:
Chicago Receives: F Carmelo Anthony (one year, $21.4 million), PG Raymond Felton (three years, $11.4 million*) and SG J.R. Smith (three years, $17.9 million)**
New York Receives: PF Carlos boozer (two years, $32.1 million), SF Luol Deng (one year, $14.3 million) and more favorable of Chicago's and Charlotte Bobcats' 2014 first-round draft pick.
*Felton has player option for 2015-16.
**Smith has player option for 2015-16, and cannot be traded until Jan. 15.
The Knicks remain on pace to clear their books in 2015, without the risk of Felton and Smith exercising their player options. They also gain a first-rounder in a loaded 2014 class, something they don't currently have. Charlotte's selection is top-10 protected this season, so it will likely be sent to Chicago, allowing the Bulls to structure this deal accordingly.
Let's not pretend the Knicks wouldn't remain competitive in the horrendous Eastern Conference, either. Deng is an All-Star and Boozer can still score and grab rebounds. He also allows Mike Woodson to justifiably run those big lineups he's so inexplicably fond of.
For the Bulls, they land a second superstar. It's clear neither the injury-prone Rose nor 'Melo is fit to be the lone star on a championship team, but together, they could make for something special next season.
Do you make this trade if you're Chicago, knowing 'Melo is a flight risk?
Definitely, because if you want him he's not a flight risk, if only for lack of better options on his part.