In a move that has the Cleveland Cavaliers thinking about the present and the Chicago Bulls thinking about the future, the teams executed a major trade late Monday. The Bulls are sending two-time All-Star Luol Deng to the Cavs for Andrew Bynum, three future draft picks and major salary savings.
The Cavs, looking to end a three-year playoff drought, are attempting to make a run by acquiring Deng to shore up the small forward position. They parlayed Bynum's team-friendly contract into a piece to put next to young guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
Deng, 28, is averaging 19 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 23 games. He has been bothered by an injured Achilles that caused him to miss nine games over the past six weeks. He has returned to play in the Bulls' past three games. The Cavs, who have lost eight of their past nine games and have been missing Irving with a knee injury, are hoping Deng helps them turn things around.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert welcomed Deng via Twitter early Tuesday.
Welcome @LuolDeng9 to the Cleveland Cavaliers!— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) January 7, 2014
"We have worked to acquire and maintain flexibility in order to capitalize on opportunities such as this," Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. "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."
The Bulls, who are facing a lost season after a bevy of injuries, including a season-ending knee injury to Derrick Rose, are focusing on the upcoming draft and next season. Chicago waived Bynum by 5 p.m. Tuesday, clearing his $12.3 million salary off their books. That will enable the Bulls to get below the luxury tax threshold, which, combined with the savings from not having to pay Deng the balance of his $14.3 million salary, will save the team more than $20 million.
"What was unusual about this, unique about this was the Andrew Bynum contract," Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. "The fact that we get him in the deal and obviously we will waive him, it gives us tremendous financial flexibility moving forward. The thing that we are assured of in talking to [Bulls chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] in going through this process is that the things that we benefit from financially, we are going to, in the future, put back into this basketball team."
Bynum is expected to clear waivers and become a free agent by the end of the week. Though he was suspended by the Cavs for one game for conduct detrimental to the team and excused from team activities, he is expected to be chased on the open market. The Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks are among the teams expected to consider offering him a landing spot.