It was a hard sight seeing longtime team veteran Luol Deng being traded away to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this year. After spending nine years with the Chicago Bulls, his departure was as unexpected as it was painful. But like pulling off a scab, his exit may have hurt but ultimately it was for the best.
The Bulls were unable to keep paying him $16 million a year. Now the Bulls will have more money in their pockets this offseason, allowing them to pursue the talent that they need to become a stronger team. But Deng will become a free-agent after the year is over.
Should Deng be a part of the pool of prospective players the Bulls go after if he agrees to a pay-cut?
The answer is no. Bringing back Deng would be a mistake in the long run. He was and should always be considered one of the best players the Bulls have had. It just needs to be noted that Chicago did not erupt into flames after he left. Quite the contrary actually. For whatever reason, the slimmer squad has been able to pick up steam as they roll towards the NBA Playoffs. Team leader Joakim Noah has turned into a dominant force, leading Chicago to a decent place in the Eastern Conference standings. All of this was accomplished without Deng on the squad.
If he is re-signed, it would not be the end of the world. It just would not be the best option for either party. Deng still has enough gas left in his tank to make him one of the best at his position for another couple years. His best option would be to sign a contract with a championship-contending team.
Meanwhile, hopefully the Bulls will finally be able to pick up Nikola Mirotic this offseason and bring back their offensive push at the forward position. Regardless, since there are going to be so many available players to pick from, Deng’s name should be at the bottom of the pile.