First off, this is the time of year when people throughout the NBA, both knowingly and unknowingly, put out lots of information pertaining to the NBA Draft. So take the reported discussions about Luol Deng potentially getting traded to Washington with a grain of salt.
Sure, the Bulls have talked about Deng with teams, and in an upcoming NBA Draft where the organizations holding the normally coveted top-10 picks Thursday evening are open for business, the All-Star isn't the only big name around the league up for discussion, joining the likes of Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Indiana's Danny Granger, among others.
It makes sense, as the longest-tenured Bull is entering the final year of his current contract and prevailing wisdom says to get as much value for him as possible to not only improve the present and future roster but in anticipation of not being able to re-sign him next summer. Even if the reported swap with the Wizards, presumably for the third-overall pick in the draft and a veteran player in the same salary range as Deng, such as center Emeka Okafor, doesn't occur, it wouldn't be shocking to again get wind about rumors surrounding Deng leading up to Thursday (Cleveland is another team the Bulls have reportedly have had conversations with about the small forward) and throughout next month's free-agency period.
But that doesn't mean it's happening, particularly because it wouldn't be the wisest move for a lottery team unlikely to be a major threat next season, to sacrifice what could be a big piece of its future for a probable one-year rental player with a lot of mileage, which is a concern amongst intrigued front offices.
Though Deng has burnished his reputation as perhaps the league's premier iron man and an elite two-way player, it's no secret that the Bulls have periodically sought out potential trading partners over the years, including last year's draft, but as valuable as he is to Tom Thibodeau's strategy on both ends of the court, the landscape of the league dictates that teams must plan ahead, even if it means parting with core talent. With Jimmy Butler proving capable of handling either wing position, prospects such as shooting guards Ben McLemore of Kansas (the outside threat and potential No. 2 scorer fans have been clamoring for to play alongside Derrick Rose for years) and Indiana's Victor Oladipo (an explosive, defensive-minded athlete who fits with the squad's approach) or, if they were inclined to directly replace Deng, versatile Georgetown product Otto Porter, would be among the appealing options available near the top of the draft.
To do that, however, would be ignoring the obvious: Deng's presence is key to the Bulls' expected return to contending status next season.
[NBA Draft Capsule: Indiana SG Victor Oladipo]
With Rose's return, Butler's continued development and the same rugged front court (All-Star center Joakim Noah, underappreciated Carlos Boozer, backup Taj Gibson and likely veteran reserve Nazr Mohammed, a free agent, as well as potentially a rookie big man) all coming back, Deng's return would stabilize the team, give them a formidable pair of defensive bookends on the wing and provide secondary scoring, something that, like it or not, no rookie in this draft class would immediately provide, not with Thibodeau's mindset of young players (remember Butler's non-existent rookie year?) having to earn minutes on the court, regardless of their pedigree.
Miami won the title again, but San Antonio and even Indiana took the Heat to the limit, which should make the Bulls optimistic, especially if savvy offseason signings on the cheap are made.
After all, if the goal is to have a championship parade mirroring the one the Blackhawks will soon have, there's no reason to think it can't happen next season. If Deng doesn't return in 2014-15, other maneuvers are made (like amnestying Boozer next offseason) after a failed run and other financial obligations are lessened to attempt to make a big splash, then that would be understandable.
But luxury-tax concerns aside, bringing back the Bulls' glue guy is imperative to the team's ultimate desire, though you can't blame the organization if they did explore its options a year ahead of schedule.