Luol Deng arrived in Chicago in 2004 and helped turn around the dismal post-championship period. The Bulls made the playoffs in eight of the next nine seasons.
The Bulls traded Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers late Monday night for center Andrew Bynum and draft picks. The Bulls will almost certainly waive Bynum immediately, because the often-injured center's contract is not fully guaranteed this season.
This move was surprising, but Deng wasn't likely to stay with the team beyond this season. He will be a free agent next summer and the Bulls will be looking to trim the payroll and create more financial flexibility. That's also why using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer next summer is a strong possibility.
Deng recently missed nine games with a sore Achilles tendon but was having one of his best seasons statistically, averaging a team-high 19 points to go with 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
For now, he will finish his Bulls career ranked fifth in games played for the franchise with 637. Oddly enough, he's eight games behind John Paxson for fourth place. Paxson, the team's vice president of basketball operations, had a big hand in making the trade. The top three are Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Jerry Sloan.
Deng ranks fourth on the Bulls' list of minutes played and fourth in points scored at 10,286 (behind Jordan, Pippen and Bob Love).
"We have great respect for Luol Deng, as a player and a person. He has been an incredible contributor to our team on the court, and he has also done great things in the community," general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. "On behalf of the entire Bulls organization, I want to thank Luol for his years in Chicago."
Besides the savings in payroll and luxury tax, the Bulls will receive a conditional first-round pick that Cleveland acquired from Sacramento. According to draftexpress.com, that pick is top-12 protected in 2014 and top-10 protected from 2015-17. If the pick is not conveyed to the Bulls by then, they'll get a 2017 second-round pick from the Kings.
The Bulls also will have the option of trading first-round picks with Cleveland in 2015, if the Cavs' pick is not in the lottery. They also get second-round picks, that Cleveland obtained from Portland, in 2015 and '16.
"The moves made today will put us in a better position to make the entire roster stronger for the future and to compete for a championship," Forman's statement read.
The Bulls lose a key player in Deng, but they get back some assets in this trade. They'd get nothing if he left as a free agent. The Bulls also are waiting to get a conditional first-round pick from Charlotte in the Tyrus Thomas trade and are hoping to sign Real Madrid rising star Nikola Mirotic next summer.