When Derrick Rose went down with a season ending knee injury last week, any shot the Bulls had at making a legitimate run at the Pacers and Heat seemingly went down with him. After all, Chicago is thinner than they were last season without Rose, and last year they were no match for Miami in the Conference semis.
After Rose was deemed out for the season, the writing was on the wall for this Bulls team. It was time to trade Luol Deng (an unrestricted free agent next summer), and start over. By moving Deng and either trading or releasing Carlos Boozer next summer (via the amnesty clause) Chicago could open up about $13 million in cap space. Which seems nice on paper — until you look a little deeper.
Chicago also needs to pay their first round pick in the 2014 draft, plus another potential first round pick if Charlotte doesn't land in the top 10 (the Bobcats owe the Bulls a protected 1st). That money would eat into the $13 million, and the Bulls also have an extension coming for Jimmy Butler to worry about in 2015. While that would not necessarily restrict them in 2014, the Bulls have never been ones to go well beyond the luxury tax, so Butler's raise would no doubt make an impact on any potential long term deals the Bulls are considering handing out.
While a core of Rose-Noah-Butler-Taj Gibson and some first round picks is nice..is it really enough to warrant throwing away the rest of this season for a team designed to win right now?
It seems as though Chicago should at least be considering potential trades that could help them compete in one of the least challenging Conferences in the history of basketball. A Conference that has precisely two teams that would make the playoffs in the West at the moment.
With that in mind, I present you a trade idea. Remember, I said idea. Not rumor. Not report. Just an idea that's worth discussing.
Boston trades: Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford
Chicago trades: Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Bobcats protected 2014 1st round pick (top 10 protected '14, top 8 protected '15, unprotected '16), Bulls 2014 1st round pick, Bulls 2016 1st round pick
Question #1: Does this trade work with the cap?
Answer: Yup. Boston deals $22.8 million in salary and gets $18.3 million in return, just close enough to work under the NBA's rules. A simple swap of Deng and the picks for Rondo and Green doesn't work, which is why Chicago adds in Hinrich. Crawford is then thrown in to give the Bulls an adequate back-up to Rondo. As for the picks, Chicago didn't deal their 2013 pick, and hasn't dealt any future picks, allowing them to trade both their 2014 and 2016 selections (you cannot trade your own 1st rounder back-to-back seasons under the CBA). The Charlotte pick is free to be moved as well. Here's this deal in the trade machine.
Question #2: How much better does this deal make Chicago?
Answer: Well, a lot. This deal would not be made until Rondo was back on the court and clearly over his knee injury (probably in January). Chicago's line-up would morph from:
Hinrich-Butler-Deng-Boozer-Noah with Taj Gibson, Nazr Mohammed and Mike Dunleavy coming off the bench.
To: Rondo-Butler-Green-Boozer-Noah with Gibson, Crawford, Dunleavy and Mohammed off the bench.
Chicago would have a slew of guys to run with Rondo (Green, Butler, Noah, Gibson), an elite defensive anchor (Noah), guys who can shoot (Butler, Green, Crawford, Dunleavy), and a guy you can run an offense through on the blocks (Boozer). No, this team wouldn't be the favorite, but they'd be an easy 3-seed in the East with the potential to upset either Indiana or Miami. Rondo and Noah are notoriously tough for Miami to match-up with, and Chicago would give both the Heat and Pacers fits.
Question #3: Yea, but why would Chicago mortgage their future for a small chance at a title?
Answer: Because they're not mortgaging their future. At first glance it does appear that way, as three first round picks plus Deng is quite a package to part with. But Chicago wouldn't so much be giving up those picks as they would be loaning them. You see, once Rose is healthy this summer (I know people are cracking their "Jesus will be back before D-Rose!!" jokes, but in all honesty Rose should be fine next year. It's the same injury Russell Westbrook suffered last spring, and he made it back in 6 months with a setback included. Rose has 11 months) the Bulls can trade Rondo and his very affordable $12 million contract and recoup their losses. No, they won't get three 1st round picks back, but they will most likely get two picks. Or maybe a pick and a young building block. Or a pick and someone taking Boozer off their hands. Whatever the haul is, it will replenish much of the value they lost in this deal. And while subbing out Deng for Green is a clear downgrade, Green would be able to replace a good amount of what Deng does for about 60% of what Deng makes. As the 5th best player on the floor Green should feel far more comfortable than he does now trying to play the role of alpha dog in Boston. In Chicago he'd be asked to score 12-13 PPG and play good, strong defense. Two things he can most definitely do.
Bottom line: If Rondo was a free agent at the end of this season, there is no way Chicago would do this. But because they'd still own his rights for 2014-15 they could make up for much of what they lost in the trade come July.
Question #4: Is Boston getting enough value for Rondo?
Answer: This is the toughest call for me. Rondo is right on the borderline between star and superstar, and in a superstar's league he's worth a ton. Then again, this would be an amazing haul. Boston would pick up three first round picks PLUS shed a ton of salary in the process. In this deal Boston would save $30 million between 2014-15 and 2015-16. However, you're picking up no proven talent, and that's a really tough pill to swallow. If Chicago does end up in the 3-seed and Charlotte grabs the 7-seed, you'd end up with something like the 15th and 25th picks in this years draft, plus a likely late first in 2016 for Rondo. Is that enough? Well, again, on the surface things look iffy. But Boston could very well turn around and trade Deng (and maybe Hinrich) for additional value. Deng is incredibly valuable, and could be turned into an additional first round pick by Ainge at the deadline. One idea I like: Deng to Detroit for Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva. Deng would be a perfect fit for Detroit (who badly wanted Andre Iguodala, a similar player, this summer) allowing them to play Josh Smith at the 4 and Andre Drummond at the 5. And with Villanueva's deal expiring, Ainge could then use some of the savings from Rondo and Green to lock up Monroe.
I know, I know, I'm getting ahead of myself. But for those who believe in the "tear it down and start anew" philosophy..this deal is the mother of such deals.
Question #5: Does this deal make the Celtics bad enough to move into the upper lottery?
Answer: Another tough one considering the Eastern Conference is basically one, giant pile of crap this season. But I think it would be. While Green is not an All-Star, he's giving Boston 15 PPG and playing a ton of minutes. If Ainge then turns around and trades Deng (likely in this scenario), the Celts would be left with only Gerald Wallace and his 9.8 PER at the 3. Boston would also be losing Crawford, who very well may be their MVP so far, and replacing him with a veteran in Hinrich who would either be traded or bought out. While the rest of this season would suck, guys like Bradley, Sullinger, Olynyk and Faverani would still be able to develop while Boston rose in the lottery standings.
Question #6: What are the best case scenarios for each team?
Chicago: Obviously winning a title. But even if they don't (and it's likely that's the case), if Rondo helps lead them on an extended playoff run and is then traded in a package for two-first round picks..it's worth it. That would mean they ended up trading the equivalent of one pick for however far they end up going plus Green, who will be able to replace much of Deng's production for a little more than half the price.
Boston: A full bottoming out leads to an elite draft pick in this years draft. Deng is traded either for a Monroe type, or another first. That means Boston has their own pick (top 7 let's say), Charlotte's (let's say around 16-17), Brooklyn/Atlanta's pick (low 20s sounds about right) and Chicago's (mid 20s) plus whatever they get for Deng. Sure, there's not much talent in house. But that would change very, very quickly.
Question #7: What are the worst case scenarios for each team?
Chicago: Well obviously Rondo could re-injure the knee or something, but if that doesn't happen their worst case is a first round playoff exit. Rondo doesn't embrace the role of "rental player" which would be a tough role to embrace. Being comfortable is important, and Rondo would basically know he was one-and-done in ChiTown. While baseball players do this all the time, it rarely seems to happen in basketball where a guy knows he's a mid-season rental. Because Rondo doesn't play great Chicago only gets one first for him, meaning they paid two first rounders for a single playoff series. Jesus does truly come back before D-Rose.
Boston: Brad Stevens and his band of misfits still find a way to win 30 games, and Boston only ends up with the 9th pick in the draft. Deng isn't traded and instead just walks in free agency. Charlotte crashes back into the top 10, and then the top 8 of the draft next year before making the playoffs in 2016, meaning Boston only ends up with a pick in the 20s this season and two non-lottery picks in 2016 for Rondo. Ainge drafts Fab Melo's three younger brothers with those picks.
Question #8: At the end of the day, does either team pull the trigger on this deal?
To be honest, I think this deal is something both teams consider, but end up passing on. There are just too many variables, and too many moving pieces for either GM to say yes to it. If Chicago could guarantee that Rondo would excel and that they could deal him after the season for two firsts - they do it. If Ainge could guarantee that he could swing something valuable for Deng or that this deal would lock him into the top 5 of this years draft - he does it. But it's a deal that would take major risks by both teams, which inherently makes it unlikely to happen. But I don't think it's outrageous.
Now tell me why I'm wrong in the comment section.
Edit: added Rich Levine and I discussing the trade last night on CelticsLife Live. Tried embedding only the discussion..but damn it I'm a simple man and it's proving to be difficult. Starts around 25:15 and runs through 31:15.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 11/27/2013 10:30:00 AM Tweet Edit