June 19, 2021 | 4:31 am
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Risk on Both Sides? Cavs trade Andrew Bynum to the Bulls of Luol Deng

In the wee hours of the night after the final BCS Championship game that ever was, the NBA took center stage with a blockbuster trade.

The curious case of Andrew Bynum and the Cleveland Cavaliers came to an unexpected conclusion as the Chicago Bulls emerged from the mist dangling Luol Deng as a trade piece. Just like that it was done and an email was sent containing the following:

The Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired All-Star forward Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for center Andrew Bynum, three future draft picks and the right to swap 2015 first round picks with the Cavs (1-14 protected), Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant announced tonight from Cleveland Clinic Courts.

“We are very excited for Luol to join the Cavaliers organization, ” said Grant.  “We have worked to acquire and maintain flexibility in order to capitalize on opportunities such as this. Luol reflects all that we are striving for in building our team. He’s a tremendous defensive player that can impact the game on both ends of the court with a team first mentality and is a high character leader.”

In exchange for Deng, the Cavs send Chicago Bynum,  Cleveland’s right to the Sacramento King’s first round draft pick conveyed in a June 30, 2011 deal, the right for Chicago to swap its own 2015 first round draft pick with the Cavs own 2015 first round draft pick (only in the case that the Cleveland 2015 first round draft pick is between 15 and 30) and the Portland Trail Blazer’s 2015 and 2016  second round draft picks acquired from the Trail Blazers via a 2013 draft night trade.

The best deals are the ones you don’t see coming and this one was a doozie…maybe not if you are a Bulls fan. I mentioned earlier in the day that the Cavs should entertain talks for Deng but never thought it would come by way of Bynum.

 


Why the Cavs did it

As been chronicled pretty much everywhere, Bynum had fallen out of favor in Cleveland. They simply wanted to cut their losses before his contract became fully guaranteed on their books for approximately $12 million. That would have been overpaying for a guy they no longer wanted on their roster. By acquiring Deng they fill a massive void at the small forward position that Earl Clark, C.J Miles and others weren’t capable of filling.

Deng is in the final year of his deal and is averaging a career-best 19.0 points on .452 shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steal in 37.4 minutes per game. The Cavs have a very serious goal about making the playoffs this year. They needed to make haste with a deal to salvage their season and provide real help to Kyrie Irving. Deng is a two-way player that should also provide a veteran presence in the locker room as the Cavs look to turn their season around.

The picks they give to the Bulls are all conditional or picks they acquired in other deals. The biggest risk for them in this deal is in the possibility of Deng signing elsewhere at the end of the season, especially if progress isn’t made in their playoff push. That would mean they lost three picks for roughly 50 games with Deng.  They could still be major players in free agency this Summer if Deng doesn’t re-sign with them but that’s not something they are hoping happens.

Why the Bulls did it

Chicago really liked Deng but they like saving money better. They gave their roster some time to adjust to the loss of Derrick Rose again but just weren’t able to capture the same heart and hustle of last season’s squad. It became apparent that this team could very easily miss the playoffs or worse, sneak in as a lower seed and get bounced in the first round. That would in turn mean they could lose Deng for nothing in the Summer after failing to come to an agreement on an extension earlier in the season.

Seeing an opportunity to potentially rebuild quickly, save money and receive some semblance of compensation for Deng…the Bulls made the move to acquire Bynum. The frequently aloof center will be (should be) waived in order to save the Bulls some money immediately. This signifies a rebuilding period for the Bulls who will rely heavily on the ever-improving Jimmy Butler and very capable Mike Dunleavy on the wing the rest of this season.

Rumor has it that the Bulls will amnesty Carlos Boozer this Summer. That is a very likely scenario but what is also just as likely and prudent is for Chicago to at least attempt to move Boozer for assets before the trade deadline. The market is likely to be dry with teams interested in trading for Boozer, but Chicago has to be the aggressors and call each of the 28 other teams not involved in their current deal with Cleveland.

With multiple picks including their own over the next few seasons, Rose, Joakim Noah,  Taj Gibson and Butler the Bulls are in good shape for a quick rebuild. They also own the rights to a top European prospect named Nikola Mirotic who could join them as early as next season. Chicago will be fine…eventually. But somewhere you have to think that Rose has his leg propped up wondering “What the hell is going on?”

As for Bynum, once he is waived the L.A. Clippers and Miami Heat are said to be eager to make the pick up. The Clippers would make a lot of sense for both parties but Pat Riley has some crazy ill voodoo that seems to attract players on the cheap for Miami.

We shall see where Bynum’s next adventure will take him shortly.

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