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Article updated: 6/25/2013 9:13 PM

Bulls have decisions to make, starting with Deng

By Mike McGraw

Luol Deng has gotten plenty of action on the NBA rumors circuit the past few days.

Some potential trades were mentioned, along with negotiations for a contract extension, but a league source suggested there is nothing going on in either category right now.

In the meantime, Portland all-star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge could become a factor in what the Bulls do this summer.

As forecast here long ago, the Bulls plan to explore trade options for Deng, who is entering the final year of his contract worth $14.3 million. There's nothing to the rumor of Deng being traded to Washington for the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Deng will be tough to move because of his high salary. Washington and Cleveland are two young teams that could use a veteran presence, but there's no chance Deng would draw the No. 1 or 3 overall pick in return. Maybe if one of those teams were picking 10th, it might be possible.

Otherwise, teams looking at Deng would want the Bulls to take back a long, large contract in return and the Bulls aren't in position to do that. Would New Orleans trade Deng for Eric Gordon (3 years, $44.5 million)? Probably, but the Bulls wouldn't take on that contract, even if Gordon and Derrick Rose were on friendly terms.

A smart alternative for the Bulls would be to try to sign Deng, 28, to an extension this summer at a more reasonable price. A four-year deal worth $40 million would seem to be fair market value. It would be affordable for the Bulls and would keep Deng here with Rose during his peak playing years.

The question is whether Deng's camp would be agreeable to such a deal, especially after there's been some acrimony between him and management over the years.

Keeping Deng would be a wise move, because he's helped make the Bulls winners (eight playoff trips in nine years since the 2004 draft). Also, since LeBron James will continue to be an obstacle, the Bulls would be in better shape with two players (Deng and Jimmy Butler) who can challenge James defensively.

Bulls fans often to point to the 2006 draft-night trade of Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas as one of the team's biggest mistakes. It helped set the stage for lottery night 2008, so there's not much point in second-guessing now.

Word is, Aldridge wants to escape from Portland's rebuilding project and has made it known that he'd like to land in Chicago.

Deng for Aldridge won't get it done. The Blazers want Joakim Noah in return and the Bulls don't want to give up the superior defensive big man.

Here's one way to get Portland's attention: Offer Deng and Charlotte's future No. 1 pick. The Bulls are counting on that Bobcats' pick (acquired for Thomas, ironically), to pay off big, because it's unprotected in 2016.

If Charlotte improves during the next two years, though, that pick could end up in the teens. So cashing it in for a 27-year-old all-star has plenty of merit. Aldridge averaged 21.1 points and 9.1 rebounds last season, and could play next to Noah.

There's no telling what might happen this summer, but the Bulls have a large payroll and limited means to make changes. Deng figures to be at the center of whatever transaction that occurs.

mmcgrw@dailyherald.com

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