Last season, the Bulls ended the year with Mike Dunleavy Jr., Tony Snell and Ronnie Brewer as the rotation at the small forward position; not the most prolific unit to say the least (although Snell has shown improvement in the NBA Summer League). Now, with Gasol likely taking somewhere around $8 million per year and Carlos Boozer likely to be amnestied in the coming days, the Bulls have the roster depth and cap space to possibly make one more major move this offseason.
One option that the Bulls could pursue that results in additional roster and cap flexibility would be to work with the Cleveland Cavaliers to garner a sign-and-trade agreement for the services of former Bulls forward Luol Deng.
Although it may be somewhat of a pipe dream for many, Deng hasn’t signed a contract with any team this offseason showing that his camp is willing to wait for the right deal, as well as the fact he never wanted to leave Chicago in the first place.
Sure, there is probably some bad blood or vibes left between the two sides, but the possibility for a serious NBA title run should cure all. Coach Tom Thibodeau loves Deng, his former teammates would like nothing more than to have him back and his skill-set on both ends of the court would solidify the Bulls’ starting five as one of the best in basketball.
From the Cavs’ point of view, they are looking to add skill and depth to a roster that all of sudden features LeBron James as the centerpiece. With the growing concern that without No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins as part of a trade package, the Minnesota Timberwolves may not be willing to part with All-Star forward Kevin Love, looking elsewhere to find complimentary pieces for James is a must.
A sign-and-trade for Deng would most likely have to include Taj Gibson and multiple draft picks. Although Gibson was poised to have a breakout season in 2014, the addition of Gasol will limit his minutes at the four position. Gibson would give the Cavaliers another young, but established piece to build around.
Now whether the Bulls would be willing to part with Gibson at all, especially to a new Eastern Conference rival is a whole other discussion. But there is no damage done to at least pursue the idea.
Reports have stated that to close games next season, Gibson could be in the lineup at the three position due to his length and athleticism, but I’m still unsure how his game will translate to playing extended minutes 15-25 feet from the basket in that role.
Regardless, Deng is a better option at the three than any other player on the Bulls’ current roster or still available via free agency. He is garnering heavy interest from the Miami Heat, as well as the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns. But reuniting with the team he helped build can only benefit both Deng and the Bulls.
With the Bulls last season, Deng averaged 19 points (career-best), seven rebounds and nearly four assists (career-best) per game through 23 games.