With Derrick Rose out for the season due to a torn meniscus and the Bulls out of championship contention, multiple teams have inquired about Deng's availability. The two-time All-Star is in the final year of his contract and may be on the way out of Chicago if his price tag remains too high. Deng and the Bulls broke off extension negotiations before the season, with both sides reportedly $5-6 million apart, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Deng is currently making $14.3 million this season and will likely be looking for a similar deal going forward. This will almost certainly be the last big deal of Deng's career, so he may not be willing to take a hometown discount like the Bulls are hoping. Despite this, management still feels they can find some sort of compromise.
The whole situation is made more complicated by several other factors. The Bulls have nearly $65 million committed to next season, and re-signing Deng could push them over the luxury tax again, triggering the punitive repeater tax. Carlos Boozer's $16.8 million could be chopped off via the amnesty ax, but there are questions about whether or not Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf would be willing to pay Boozer to play for another team.
There's also the matter of Bulls draftee and European stud Nikola Mirotic. Next summer, Mirotic finally won't be bound by the NBA rookie scale contract system, so he could look to sign a more lucrative deal with Chicago. If Mirotic is willing to sign for the mid-level exception, the Bulls could then re-sign Deng and amnesty Boozer while remaining under the luxury tax. But if Mirotic wants more, and he might considering how well he's playing over in Europe, the Bulls would need cap space to sign him. In that case, both Deng and Boozer would almost certainly have to go if the Bulls wanted Mirotic on the team next season.
The Bulls also must weigh whether or not it's actually worth signing Deng to an expensive long-term deal. The forward has gone to the All-Star Game two years in a row and is playing some of the best ball of his career with Rose out, but he has put a lot of miles on his tires and is currently dealing with an Achilles issue. The worry is Deng might not have many really good years left, and with Rose's own health being a huge question mark going forward, it may be in the Bulls' best interests to find a younger, cheaper and potentially more dynamic scoring threat. Deng has always been a solid scorer, but his offensive shortcomings tend to crop up when defenses really tighten up.
Bulls management could be just posturing with all the talk about keeping Deng, preferring to keep trade talk tightly under wraps. They also could be really serious about keeping Deng long-term, although if the two sides are truly so far apart in negotiations, it would be better to try and acquire some assets now rather than let him walk for nothing. A sign-and-trade could be salvaged next summer, but the return wouldn't be as great.