Thursday, January 9, 2014

Deng, That's An Interesting Trade

On Monday, January 6, the Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum, his hair, and three draft picks.  This trade was probably not that big of a deal, but deng it we're going to make it one! Welcome to our first roundtable discussion of 2014!

Who won this trade?

Paul: Um, neither team? In a sense, the Bulls "won" by avoiding the luxury tax this season and trading away an expiring contract for something, even though it is likely to be a late first or second-round pick sometime a few years off. At the same time, you have to think Deng might have chosen to remain in Chicago after his contract expired, which now seems like something with no shot of happening. Meanwhile, the Cavs clearly got better this season by adding Deng, a very solid player who has played at an all-star level as recently as 2 seasons ago. Unfortunately, they are 11 games under .500, have the 4th worst point differential in the league, and even in the Big 10 Conference Eastern Conference, they have to be seen as a long shot to make the playoffs. Are you really making this trade to try and convince LeBron you are "serious about contending?"
Joel: First of all, I'd say the biggest loser in this trade is me. I literally just hacked the sleeves off of my "I'm just here for the Deng Bang" Bulls t-shirt, and now I'll look like a fool wearing it. I can imagine the situation now: I'm strolling down the streets in my DengBang sleeveless and 5 inch shorts, and some hot chick will be like "Hey nice shirt, nerd, Deng doesn't even Bang in groups or otherwise in Chicago anymore". Ugh, that will be the worst. Post-colonial sexualization of black men is only acceptable under the guise of TRUE FANDOM. But in all seriousness, after six years in Chicago and with my SuperSonics unavailable, I have adopted Los Bulls (it's Latin Night!) as my team, and I will miss seeing Luol attempt to dribble on the run with his hilariously long arms. That dude has like a ten foot wingspan (similar to the Andean Condor). The silver lining of this whole business is that Bynum was promptly waived which was funny, and maybe Chicago's front office will draft six replacement sets of knees for Derrick Rose.
Brian: Hands down, the Bulls. They get 2 second rounders, the right to swap first round picks with Cleveland in 2015 if they finish with a pick in the 15-30 range, and potentially another first rounder if the Kings somehow finish outside the top 12 this year (c'mon, Boogie Cousins!!!). Ok, so realistically they aren't getting that pick. But what's more intriguing is the Bulls are subtly tanking for the most loaded draft in years. AND they get Charlotte's first rounder if they finish outside the top 10, which is somehow actually possible this year. But who says the Bulls can't finish with a top 5 pick based on their own record? They already lost Rose for the season, and just traded away their best perimeter defender/2nd best offensive weapon. So next year they could potentially roll out a lineup of Rose/Jimmy Butler/Boozer/1st round blue chipper/Noah. That team couldn't contend for the title? ANYTHING IS POSSIBLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

As for the Cavs - what's the end game here? You now have 3 point guards that hate each other, a power forward that can't stay healthy for 20 games, and Deng, who is a good role player but will never be a star. Sure, you'll make the playoffs in the turrible East, but are you going to beat the Heat or Pacers in a 7 game series? Really? Dan Gilbert probably still thinks he can get Lebron this summer. LOL. This trade is at best a C for the Cavs.
Jack: This whole roundtable is going to be hard for me, because it requires looking at the Eastern Conference standings. Three teams are currently at or over .500. (Pause.) (Yes it is really that bad.) If we have to pick sides, I guess the Bulls won - being able to duck the luxury tax this year is so important, as they may run significant bills in the next couple of years as they pursue a title. Avoiding it this year resets the clock on the super-duper death taxes that begin in the third year of cap penalties. Tha being said, it's not like the Cavs lost this trade. They had about 68 draft picks over the next 3 years, and they upgraded at a position where they were straight doo-doo. I guess that counts as a win?

Will the Cavs make the playoffs?
Paul: Well, as things stand at the moment, the 8th team in the East is projected to finish with a .400 winning percentage, meaning the Cavs could go 22-25 the rest of the way and theoretically finish ahead of that. At the beginning of the year, you would have thought that would be no problem, but after almost 3 months of shaky play, I'm not so sure. Deng is obviously a massive small forward upgrade over Earl Clark (lol), Alonzo Gee (LOL) and Anthony Bennett (HAHAHAHAHAHA), so they should improve. At the same time, you have to think that one of Brooklyn or New York will improve and that Detroit will win enough games to push the #8 seed up to about 36 wins. All of a sudden they have to go above .500 to beat that level, and I don't think they quite get there. I give it at 40% chance.
Joel: Who cares if the Cavs make the playoffs, as long as Pepsi incorporates Kyrie Irving's new teammate into the "Uncle Drew" series of REALLY SUBTLE commercials. In this Deng iteration, however, Uncle Drew attempts to bring back the old team that starred in "Air Bud 69: This Time the Dog Athlete is a Condor that is Actually Luol Deng"), and they can wreak havoc upon the fake pickup games of South Sudan or whatever. I'd watch that BUT I STILL WONT BUY PEPSI MAX, PEPSI. Unless it is sugar-free, I'm not trying to get diabetes or anything. Update: I just googled Pepsi Max, and it turns out it is, in fact, sugar-free. GAME ON!
Brian: Of course! The East is freaking AWFUL! At 12-23, the Cavs are only 2 GAMES OUT OF THE 8 SEED! Yes, they will make the playoffs, and with it, the right to get taken to the woodshed by Miami or Indiana.
Jack: Indiana, Miami, and...who else is certain to make it?  Honestly, despite watching them get busted up in the third quarter against Golden State over the weekend, the Wizards look like the most likely team to hold their crap together. (Self-plug: I picked them to finish third earlier this season.) Toronto, currently 16-17 and 4th in the Eastern Conference ( could keep it together as well. Atlanta just lost Al Horford for the season, the politely nicknamed "shat-lantic" division is terrible, and Charlotte and Detroit are 15-21 and 14-21 and in 7th and 8th (WHAT).  As long as Cleveland starts the climb the hike the uphill walk walking the right direction now, they should easily make the playoffs. For heaven's sake, they play against other Eastern Conference teams!

Can the Bulls afford to miss the playoffs?
Paul: On the flip side, you have Chicago, who would probably prefer not to make the playoffs and beef up their draft selection given that their superstar player will not return this year. Normally I don't see the purpose of tanking, ESPECIALLY in the East this year (if you can make the playoffs going 36-44, why not do it?), but the Bulls have nothing to gain in the way of "playoff experience," and extra games will just give Thibodeau an excuse to play Noah and Butler 73 minutes a game for longer. Unfortunately for them, they will absolutely make the playoffs, unless Noah goes down with an acute intensity tear and Boozer retires to hunt moose in Alaska for the next 4 months.
Joel: The Bulls can clearly "afford" a lot of stuff with the $14.6 million they are saving. *Rimshot*.
Brian: See above - absolutely. They are completely writing off this season, basically saying "we hope Rose comes back healthy, we get a top 5 or 10 draft pick, and Jimmy Butler continues his improvement so we can run it back next year." Hey, at least Chicago still has the Blackhawks, right?
Jack: It probably takes a decade off of Thibodeau's life, but yes. In fact, I hope the East sees enough of a rise that Thibs doesn't kill his players trying to snag the 7 seed to play Miami. What happens if the Bulls get a lottery pick, or even a decent pick, in this "loaded" draft, get Rose back, and sign Nikola Mirotic (the Spanish wonder-child!)? Suddenly they're contenders again after missing the playoffs? Yes, I think they can wait a season - and let Rose recover without constant calls for his early return to the team in the playoffs.

Where will Deng end up after this season?
Paul: Now that is a good question. I don't have a good answer. It seems like every free agent ends up in Miami, New York or L.A. recently, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Lakers actually sign Deng with their plethora of cap space over the summer. Could L.A. be decent with Bryant, Gasol, Deng and team MVP Robert Sacre???
Joel: I think Deng will probably stay in Cleveland for far too long because he will quickly come to personify the Cavs's GRITTY BLUE COLLAR ONCE THRIVING MIDWEST INDUSTRIAL CITY playing style. Or something.
Brian: Assuming Dan Gilbert can't lure Lebron to Cleveland (lol again), I've got an outside the box idea: Charlotte. They've got the cap space to do it, their new coach actually gives a shit about defense, Deng could provide a bit of offense without needing many touches to be happy, and it's very likely that The Cody Zeller Experiment will become The Failed Cody Zeller Experiment. Although selfishly I just want him to come to Charlotte so that a) they add a player that doesn't shoot as soon as they touch the ball, and b) so I can watch him hilariously mesh with Al Jefferson, Jeff Adrien, and Josh "McBob" McRoberts.
Jack: SUPER CRAZY THEORY ALERT: Chicago clears more cap room, signs Lebron. The Lakers sign Carmelo. Chris Bosh goes to Boston (ok maybe that's a stretch). In their press to sign as many old players to long contracts as possible, Deng ends up...a New York Knickerbocker!

What's next for Andrew Bynum?

Paul: Bynum is going to become the next spokesman for Head and Shoulders. It is destiny.
Joel: Andrew Bynum is most definitely going to star in Coca Cola's competing "Uncle Young Craig Robinson" series of fake commercials. Bynum is going to play Craig Robinson except sixteen years younger and ten inches taller. But seriously, am I the only one who thinks they look alike!?
Brian: He opens a barbershop and cross dresses in Tyler Perry's next movie. The dude could not give a fuck less about playing basketball competitively again.
Jack: He'll be seated next to Greg Oden at the end of Miami's bench in about two weeks. That, or doing surprise cameos on every sit-com. Can you imagine him showing up in the final How I Met Your Mother episode to deliver Marshall's final slap? Ok maybe I'm just excited for the next HIMYM episode.

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