As this year gets tougher and tougher for the Chicago Bulls, many have wondered what the team will wind up doing with small forward Luol Deng. In the last year of his contract — earning $14 million this year — Deng continues to be exactly what he has been for the Bulls over the last several years: Consistently good, yet injury prone.
Deng is a guy that can go 40-plus minutes on any given night. But, because of his wear and tear, he’s constantly banged up. When he’s on the court, hurt or not, he’s one of the better defenders in the league regardless of who he’s covering at the time. Deng has been the “glue guy,” if you will, for Chicago over the years.
The nine year veteran has been amongst trade rumors for quite some time now, and it seemingly never ends. This year, with Derrick Rose sidelined yet again, it’s been another season of “Should/will the Bulls trade Deng?” all over again.
The fact of the matter is, the Bulls can’t afford to pay Deng more than $7-$8 million per year with the guys they have on the books already. They are going to have to bring in another guy or two in order to help take pressure off of Rose in the future because, let’s be honest, Rose can’t be the go-to scorer anymore. If they are to go after a couple of other pieces, Deng’s potential extension will hurt their ability to do that — i.e., the last couple of years’ free agents brought in.
At the moment, the Bulls could trade Deng for possibly a younger guy and a pick, or, another veteran with an expiring deal to at least get a ‘rental’ out of somebody. This year, they aren’t winning a title even if Rose does come back. It’s not a realistic goal at this point. Chicago has to build for the future, and it likely could begin by trading Deng before the 2013 deadline.
If the Bulls can get anything whatsoever in return for him, it’s a win. He’s likely gone next summer anyways, that is, unless Chicago overpays for an extension. Aside from that possibility, the Bulls will be left empty-handed. The least they could do is begin now by obtaining some form of value for Deng in return.