Could the Chicago Bulls Trade Luol Deng to Cleveland Cavaliers?
As the NBA draft draws closer the spotlight on the Chicago Bulls figures to reignite after their playoff exit in the second round. Few teams have as much pressure on them to put together a good off-season in order to set up a championship run next year. The problem facing them is a somewhat disadvantageous draft position and limited money to spend in free agency. Are there any solutions?
The 2013 edition of the NBA draft, almost mirroring the NFL, is considered weaker than other years. The top player on the board, Nerlens Noel of Kentucky is coming off a torn ACL. However there is some depth to the group which could give teams later in the first round a real shot at some solid talent. That is the good news for Chicago. The bad news is the two positions they need the most help at, center and shooting guard, will likely be picked clean by the time they select at #20. So the raised question becomes is there any way for them to move up the board?
Obviously the way to do that is through trade offers. Since there are only two rounds in the basketball draft, the picks don't have quite the value as other leagues. This means the Bulls would have to offer something with more substance if they wanted to move up. That means players. Local media experts agree that no one on the roster should be off limits from trading, save for star point guard Derrick Rose of course. Among the biggest names fans talk about are the Bulls front court of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng. While Boozer is probably the one everybody would like to see go, his contract is too expensive and he's 31 years old. No team will want to pay that money to an older veteran. Noah built himself into an All-Star and emerged as a respected team leader this season. That said his continued problems with injury make him too big of a risk.
That means the most tradeable player of the three is Deng. Some might balk at that considering Deng missed the Heat series while in a hospital bed. Not mention his well documented wrist injury that will eventually need surgery. Still, he's only 28-years old and played at an All-Star level with that same wrist problem all year. Any team in need of an elite defender with good shooting range and has the cap space to absorb his contract should take serious interest. The best fit is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Why they fit
Cleveland is on the rise. They have strung solid drafts together ever since they locked up Kyrie Irving and drew the #1 pick again in 2013. In addition they hold the 19th and 33rd picks as well. That means they can afford to do some trading if they see a deal they like. Deng is certainly one who fits. Cleveland has struggled to find stability at the small forward position for years ever since LeBron James left. On top of that, they posted the sixth-worst defense in the NBA this season. While the #1 pick is out of the question, there is a possibility that Cleveland could swap the 19th choice for Deng. They will have over $21 million in cap space by July which is more than enough to handle his contract. This in turn will greatly improve their overall defense, not to mention the veteran leadership Deng brings. To top it off they'll still have the top overall pick and a high second round choice too.
In return Chicago sets itself up very nicely. Not only do they clear Deng's hefty cap number off the books, they already have a replacement on the roster in rising star Jimmy Butler. The fact they get a first round pick in a trade considering Deng is a free agent in 2014 goes down as a major victory. These moves give GM Gar Forman all sorts of flexibility.
With back-to-back picks in the first round the Bulls can choose to take the best player available and then use the other to attack one of their needs. Not only does Chicago get badly needed depth, they would do so without sacrificing their other future prospects such as international draft pick Nikola Mirotic and the protected first round pick from the Charlotte Bobcats. That, coupled with the loads of money they will have to spend in 2014 when they should be able to amnesty Boozer means big things are on the horizon for the Bulls.