Bulls: Luol Deng trade makes sense for both sides

Bulls: Luol Deng trade makes sense for both sides
January 7, 2014, 1:00 am
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I was wrong.

Just hours earlier, I wrote that the Bulls were unlikely to trade Luol Deng. Late Monday evening, they did, acquiring Andrew Bynum's contract (he'll be waived) and multiple draft picks, in exchange for the 10-year veteran and longtime, now former Bull.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Deng through the years]

The fact that Bynum was available was known throughout the league, just as it was no secret that Deng was available for the right price. But with all of the build-up about the potentially-loaded 2014 NBA Draft class, it seemed out of the question that any team would give up a first-round pick, even a conditional one, as the Cavaliers surrendered.

[RELATED: Bulls deal Luol Deng to Cavaliers

Clearly, this deal was all about the future for the Bulls, but it was also about the present, as trading Deng, not to mention the cap space from shedding Bynum's contract, gets them under the luxury tax and creates flexibility to be poised to make a splash in free agency next summer, as well as bring over prized 2011 draft pick Nikola Mirotic. Again, the pros of the trade are obvious, but that doesn't make it any less surprising, given that the Bulls' season, if no longer about title contention without the injured Derrick Rose, looked like another return to the postseason was in the making with the roster reasonably healthy at the start of a new calendar year.

[RELATED: Bulls gain financial flexibility in Deng deal]

Now, the pro-tanking crowd should be appeased, as losing Deng means the playoffs are no longer a likely conclusion to the campaign and he won't leave Chicago with the Bulls having nothing to show for it. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that more moves are to come either, since there's no guarantee that just because the All-Star small forward is gone, the Bulls can't still be relatively competitive in the laughably bad Eastern Conference.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and the likes of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and the rest of the players, including Rose, won't like to hear that, but it's true. On the other hand, it's now feasible for fans to start daydreaming about filling Deng's spot with the likes of Duke star Jabari Parker, a Chicago native, or Canadian Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.

[MORE: Bulls may be closing in on Bobcats' first-round pick]

For the Cavs, the deal is somewhat risky, as they can't be sure that acquiring Deng, an unrestricted free agent next summer, means that they'll make the playoffs this spring or that he'll re-sign with the team in the offseason, though they were already poised to be one of his many suitors. But as it will theoretically help Cleveland justify its high expectations entering the campaign, it was a move that couldn't be passed up.

The same way it was for the Bulls.