Bulls Ship Luol Deng to Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum

Posted by Kenneth Teape on Tuesday, January 07, 2014 with No comments
Early Tuesday morning, in somewhat of a surprise move, the Chicago Bulls shipped  All-Star forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for suspended Center Andrew Bynum and three draft picks. The picks that will be sent the Bulls way are a top-10 protected first round pick via the Sacramento Kings that the Bulls have the right to swap with in 2015 if they choose so and two second round picks via the Portland Trail Blazers. After engaging the Los Angeles Lakers in trade talks revolving around a Pau Gasol for Bynum swapfor the better part of the last week the Cavaliers moved in a different direction swiftly knowing they had to move Bynum now (more on that to follow).

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On the exterior this looks like an asinine trade for the Bulls to make; they are trading quite possibly their most consistent and best player and one their coach adores in Deng for an injury riddled big man who was suspended from his team for conduct detrimental towards them. Based off that you would say this is a steal for the Cavaliers. 

They are getting a player who has made the All-Star team two consecutive seasons and gives the team a legitimate scoring option next to budding star Kyrie Irving that also happens to be an oustanding defender as well. Deng has missed time recently because of a sore Achilles but has played well in the 23 games he has appeared in, averaging 19 points and 6.9 rebounds in 37.4 minutes per game. With the Cavaliers seemingly in win now mode with the roster decisions they made this off season the acquisition of Deng makes perfect sense. Also, it is hard to believe also that the Cavaliers would agree to such a trade without some indication from Deng that he would be willing to re-up with them this off-season, otherwise it will be yet another decision made by Cavaliers management that will make them look like a joke of a franchise towards other teams in the NBA. He makes them a better team right now, which in a weak Eastern Conference could equal a playoff berth; exactly what the Cavaliers were aiming for coming into the season. 

But if you dig a little deeper this is a trade the Bulls come out ahead as the winners and was a steep price for the Cavaliers, who happen to be in the same division as the Bulls, to pay.

The Bulls had originally been gun shy to move Deng, after being unable to agree to an extension in the off-season, but with how the season has progressed the package the Cavaliers offered was too much to pass up; the Bulls decided the picks and salary relief were too much to pass up and  made this trade from a money saving perspective point blank. Trading away Deng, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, for Bynum saves the Bulls $15 million alone this season in salary and luxury taxes. That is because if Bynum is cut by 5 P.M. ET Tuesday, which is expected to happen, the remainder of his $12.3 million this season is wiped off the books and the Bulls will owe him nothing. More importantly it gets the Bulls under the luxury tax threshold. 

This trade could also signal the departure of Carlos Boozer from the Bulls as they look to be in fire sale mode and ready to clean house to get a new start. The Bulls still have their amnesty clause in tact and Boozer has been a candidate for it since it was announced with the new collective bargaining agreement in 2011. The clause states that any player who was signed before the lockout can have their salary taken off the books of the team who designates them and be waived. Boozer is a prime candidate as the Bulls will be looking to get out of the last $16.8 million he is owed next season. Such a move would enable the Bulls to become players in what could be a loaded free agency pool with players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Zach Randolph potentially becoming free agents if they opt out of their current contracts.

Loaded with the potential to have immense cap space and lottery picks the last piece to this puzzle would be health, namely the recovery of Derrick Rose. If Rose came back and played near the MVP level he was at before the knee injuries the Bulls would have quite a core in place already with Rose, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler before even adding in potential lottery picks and free agents. Even though the remainder of this season looks bleak for Chicago the future is bright in the Windy City. Is one season of potentially finishing above the Bulls worth all of the flexibility and potential they have handed them for the years to come? It is hard to argue for the Cavaliers being winners at all in this trade.

For a fantasy perspective there are a lot of things to take from here. First for the team that is moving Deng in the Bulls. With Deng on the move there will be a lot of minutes that need to be filled. Deng was one of the most heavily used players the last couple of seasons in Chicago so there are plenty of opportunities about to open up for some players. One name to keep an eye on is Tony Snell. Snell figures to see the biggest minutes increase along with Mike Dunleavy Jr. Dunleavy Jr. has produced more throughout the season thus far but Snell should be worth a flier to see what he is capable of with more playing time. As for the player the Bulls picked up in Bynum he can be kept on the waiver wire until he finds a new team. Depending on what team adds him will dictate the value he has on your fantasy team.

As for the Cavaliers, Deng should not see much change in his production scoring wise. He should be the second option at worst no matter the lineup the Cavaliers put on the court. He could even see a little spike in scoring with a point guard like Irving running the show. He may see a slight drop in rebounding numbers with Anderson Varejao expected to get more minutes with Bynum no longer in the picture. With better scorers around him he could see an increase in his assist totals to offset the drop in rebounding. CJ Miles, Earl Clark and possibly Dion Waiters could see a drop in their production. Miles put on an impressive performance Wednesday with a franchise record 10 three-pointers made but the Cavaliers did not trade for Deng to have him sit behind Miles. Those three players' minutes will be drastically changed with the addition of Deng; when he plays he gets heavy minutes and someone will be losing theirs.