The Chicago Bulls traded All-Star forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and three draft picks last night.
For Chicago, it’s the first move in an accelerated rebuilding process.
Because of the terms of Bynum’s deal, the Bulls can cut him immediately and not owe him a dime of whatever is left on his $US12.3 million deal. Combine that with the loss of Deng’s $US14.3 million salary, and the trade saves Chicago a ton of money in 2013-14.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that the cap savings will get them below the luxury tax threshold — which will give them greater flexibility in free agency going forward.
In that sense, it’s a salary dump. But it could pay dividends down the road.
As Sean Deveney of the Sporting News points out, the newfound financial flexibility (which would get even better if they got rid of the $US16.6 million Carlos Boozer is owed in 2014-15) should give Chicago a better chance of bringing Nikola Mirotic to the NBA. Mirotic, a 23-year-old Spaniard, is perhaps the best basketball player not currently playing in the NBA. Chicago owns his draft rights, but convincing him to leave Real Madrid is going to take a mid-seven figure deal.
The Bulls now have more room to make a Mirotic deal work this summer.
Bynum isn’t the most valuable part of this deal for Chicago, the draft picks are. Cleveland sent a 2014 first-round pick that they got from Sacramento to Chicago in the trade, as well as two second-rounders in future years.
The Bulls now have their own 2014 first-round pick, Charlotte’s first-round pick (if it falls outside the top 10), and now Sacramento’s first-round-pick (if it falls outside the top 12).
In all likelihood, that Sacramento pick won’t fall outside the top 12, but Chicago still has it in their back pocket as a trade chip going forward. If they were to engineer a trade to replace Boozer with an All-Star calibre player, that pick could be valuable.
The 2014 NBA Draft is supposed to be one of the deepest in decades, and Chicago is suddenly looking at multiple top-15 picks. There’s a decent chance Charlotte finishes somewhere between 11 and 18. Considering the state of Chicago’s roster, you have to think they’ll land somewhere in the top 10.
If Chicago can convert those first-round picks and bring over Mirotic this summer, they’ll be in a strong possession when Derrick Rose comes back from injury next year.
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