Even before the Chicago Bulls announced that Derrick Rose would be out for the season, rumors circulated that they might trade forward Luol Deng before he hits free agency. As soon as Rose got hurt, there were reports that their efforts to move him could be "accelerated." Deng and the Bulls were unable to work out a contract extension before the season and, if Chicago doesn't want to commit to paying him major money, why hold onto him now that their championship hopes appear to be out the window?
Apparently, the Bulls might not be thinking this way, according to Sam Amick of USA Today:
So who will lead the team to those wins now that Rose is out? It seems that role will fall to forward Luol Deng. He has done it before. He is Chicago's leading scorer (16.3 points a game), third-leading rebounder (7.3 a game) and a capable passer (3.4 assists a game). He is also Chicago's best perimeter defender.
With that in mind, Deng, who will make $14.2 million this year in the final year of his six-year deal, probably will be with the Bulls for the long haul, a person familiar with both sides told USA TODAY Sports. Even though an expiring deal is ideal to trade, both sides appear to want to keep him on the team. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about a potential deal.
According to Amick's report, Chicago doesn't view its outlook as "nearly as dire as those on the outside." Since the team had a surprisingly successful season in Rose's absence last year, the idea is that they can do it again. General manager Gar Forman explained this perspective in an interview with Bulls.com's Sam Smith:
Question: OK, now you know Derrick is gone for this season. Why not trade some of your players for future possibilities, young players or draft picks and begin rebuilding?
Forman: It's still too early in the process and we're not going to make any rash decisions. We feel there is a bright future ahead and we believe we are positioned well. Look, we fully expect Derrick to come back 100 percent for next season. This basically was a freak injury. This was not due to the ACL or some fatigue of other factor. We have a young nucleus of veterans basically in their 20's; we have multiple draft picks, including a pick from Charlotte in one of the next three drafts; we have the rights to Nikola Mirotic, who has been the best young payer in Europe the last two years. I know people get tired of hearing it sometimes, but we also have the possibility of flexibility in free agency this summer or next. So we feel we are in a good position, and we will be getting Derrick back.
One thing to keep in mind here is that, if the Bulls were shopping Deng and their other assets, it would not be smart to announce it to the world. It only makes sense to say they're sticking with the plan at this juncture. Another reality is that a good offer or a bad losing streak could change their thinking between now and the trade deadline. It might be hard to justify keeping the core together if things fall apart on the court.
Chicago lost 121-82 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday and 89-83 to the Utah Jazz on Monday in Rose's absence. The Bulls went 0-4 on the Western portion of their current road trip and will visit the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday before returning home.
Deng is averaging 16.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game on the season.