ESPN In a move that has the Cleveland Cavaliers thinking about the present and the Chicago Bulls thinking about the future, the two teams executed a major trade late Monday night. The Bulls are sending two-time All-Star Luol Deng to the Cavs for Andrew Bynum, three future draft picks and major salary savings. The Cavs, looking to end a three-year playoff drought, are attempting to make a run by acquiring Deng to shore up the small forward position. They parlayed Bynum’s favorable contract into a piece to put next to young guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Deng, 28, is averaging 19 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 23 games. He has been bothered by an injured Achilles that caused him to miss nine games over the past six weeks. He has returned to play in the Bulls’ past three games. The Cavs, who have lost eight of their past nine games and have been missing Irving with a knee injury, are hoping Deng helps them turn things around.
Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert welcomed Deng via Twitter early Tuesday morning.
Welcome @LuolDeng9 to the Cleveland Cavaliers!
— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) January 7, 2014
“We have worked to acquire and maintain flexibility in order to capitalize on opportunities such as this,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. “Luol reflects all that we are striving for in building our team. He’s a tremendous defensive player that can impact the game on both ends of the court with a team-first mentality and is a high character leader.” The Bulls, who are facing a lost season after a bevy of injuries, including a season-ending knee injury to Derrick Rose, are focusing on the upcoming draft and next season. Chicago plan to waive Bynum by 5 p.m. Tuesday and clear his $12.3 million salary off their books. That will enable the Bulls to get below the luxury tax threshold, which, combined with the savings from not having to pay Deng the balance of his $14.3 million salary, will save the team in more than $20 million. Bynum is expected to clear waivers and become a free agent by the end of the week. Though he was suspended by the Cavs for one game for conduct detrimental to the team and excused from team activities, he is expected to be chased on the open market. The Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks are among the teams expected to consider offering him a landing spot. In addition to the savings, the Bulls got a future first-round draft pick owed to the Cavs by the Sacramento Kings from a 2011 trade for J.J. Hickson. The Bulls will get the Kings’ pick if it falls outside the top 12 in 2014 or outside the top 10 picks in 2015, 2016 or 2017. The Bulls also got the 2015 and 2016 second-round picks the Portland Trail Blazers owed the Cavs. In a final piece, the Bulls will be able to swap draft positions with the Cavs in 2015 as long as the Cavs’ draft pick is outside the top 14 picks. The Bulls had said they wanted to keep Deng, who they drafted in 2004 and signed to a $71 million extension in 2008. But talks on a new contract for Deng, who is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, had stalled and the savings and the draft considerations were enticing. “We have great respect for Luol Deng as a player and a person,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The moves made today will put us in a better position to make the entire roster stronger for the future and to compete for a championship.” In addition to their own draft pick, the Bulls also own the Charlotte Bobcats’ 2014 first-round pick if it falls outside the top 10. They also own the rights to star Spanish forward Nikola Mirotic, who they hope to bring over to play next season. Last summer, the Cavs had more than $15 million in salary cap room left after they failed to trade for the Lakers’ Pau Gasol. They took a measured risk on Bynum, who missed all of the 2012-13 season with knee injuries. The Cavs were the only team to offer Bynum a significant contract and they protected it with provisions that enabled them to execute this trade before his full contract became guaranteed on Tuesday. Bynum averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24 games, 19 of them starts. But he consistently had issues with fellow teammates and coaches, which led to the suspension and the Cavs’ decision to trade him. The Cavs had extensive talks with the Los Angeles Lakers in another attempt to get Gasol over the past week. The Lakers remained firm in their stance not to deal their four-time All Star without receiving assets of value until the very end of negotiations, when the Cavs ended the talks to focus on the Bulls’ offer. The Lakers were in a similar position as the Bulls, with Kobe Bryant injured and with the option to trade for and waive Bynum to save $20 million. The Lakers believe, according to sources, that they will have other ways to get below the luxury tax threshold before the trade deadline and that Gasol still holds value around the league.
This is a very interesting trade, because it seems like one team is looking to make a playoff run, but another team is essentially giving up on the 2013-2014 season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (11-23) seem like they have committed to making a run this season, they have had a gaping hole at small forward, which is now plugged with All-Star Luol Deng. Does adding Deng make the Cavs am NBA title contender this season? Absolutely not. They also get addition by subtraction by trading center Andrew Bynum, who has been a major problem in the Cavs locker room and had to be removed. The Cavs have struggled this season, but the entire Eastern Conference has been awful, and adding Deng and losing Bynum may be enough to send Cleveland on a run and get them into the playoffs.
For the Chicago Bulls (14-18) this trade was about one thing and one thing only. The almighty dollar. The Bulls have been devastated by injuries, most notably the season ending knee injury to former NBA MVP Derrick Rose, and were going to have to pay the luxury tax this season. They needed to clear cap space in the worst way, and they would not have been able to sign Deng as a free agent during the 2014 offseason, so giving Deng away for cap space and a future first round draft pick makes sense. The Bulls need to keep their fingers crossed that Derrick Rose returns from back-to-back season ending knee injuries, and returns to MVP form.
The big loser of this trade is center Andrew Bynum, who has gone from the best young center in the NBA, to a problem child that nobody wants due to injury woes and off the court antics.