Why the Bulls Must Trade Luol Deng: To Keep Joakim Noah and win a Championship

This post is meant to be a continuation of a previous post: 2010 NBA Free Agency = Fantasy Auction Draft (& a Bulls' FAIL!). The basic premise was that the Bulls (and most teams) will miss out on the big prizes next summer (Wade, Bosh, LeBaby) and end up overpaying a "second-tier" player (Joe Johnson, Amare, Rudy Gay).

Having one of the latter three would not necessarily be a bad thing (as I put second-tir in quotes to emphasize that all 3 of those guys are really great players, and not second-tier at all), all three would make the Bulls a much better team next season ... BUT would wind up hurting the Bulls in the long-term. This post will (hopefully) explain why, and (see title of post) why that will eventually force the Bulls to trade Luol Deng to keep Joakim Noah. So with that as background, here we go!

First, we have to look at the general composition of an NBA team in terms of salary structure. The salary cap and player contracts make all of this very complex but for my purposes, I will dumb it down. Basically, each team can afford to have two maximum contracts and one other very-near-max contract (or some similar combination), then fill in the remainder with smaller contracts (read: role players). To illustrate my point, let's use the NBA Champs from last year - the LA Lakers:

Salaries (from
CSV ▪ PRE ▪ About
Rk Player Salary

1 Kobe Bryant $21,262,500
2 Pau Gasol $15,106,000
3 Lamar Odom $14,148,596
4 Derek Fisher $4,700,000
5 Sasha Vujacic $4,524,887
6 Luke Walton $4,420,000
7 Adam Morrison $4,159,200
8 Trevor Ariza $3,100,000
9 Andrew Bynum $2,769,300
10 Jordan Farmar $1,080,000

They followed the basic idea: three really big contracts and a bunch of role players. There are obvious exceptions to this "rule" - such as the runner-up from last year, the Orlando Magic:

Salaries (from
CSV ▪ PRE ▪ About
Rk Player Salary

1 Rashard Lewis $16,447,871
2 Dwight Howard $13,758,000
3 Jameer Nelson $7,700,000
4 Hedo Turkoglu $6,864,200
5 Tony Battie $5,746,000
6 Mickael Pietrus $5,300,000
7 Rafer Alston $4,900,000
8 Tyronn Lue $2,250,000
9 J.J. Redick $2,139,720
10 Anthony Johnson $1,910,000

The Magic basically had 2 big contracts, then two smaller deals that were the equivalent of the third big contract in my "rule". So you get the idea.

Stay with me, there is a point to all of this. Let's look at the Chicago Bulls! The Bulls finally have a marquee player, our first alpha dog (could-be-the-best-player-on-a-title-contender level player) since MJ. Other than carrying my hopes and dreams as a basketball fan, D-Rose will also be carrying a very fat wallet ... from signing an NBA maximum contract when he is eligible. And I know it's early, but I can confidently say that the Bulls would be dumb to let him walk without offering him max money at any point in the next 12 years. So we can be pretty certain that Rose will get a max deal in 2013-14 (and will make over $9million the last year of his rookie deal). So thinking long-term, that ties up 1/3 of the Bulls max/near-max contracts.

Next, let's look at Luol Deng (and his $71 million contract). During the last year of Rose's current contract (2012-13) and the first year of Rose's assumed next contract (2013-14) Deng is set to make $13.3 and $14.3 million respectively. There is only a 2 year overlap under Deng's current contract - so we can trade him before then, re-sign him to a new deal, or let him walk. (Note1: I doubt that someone coming off a 6year/$71m contract will want to sign for a contract worth half that amount.) (Note2: I am 100% certain that good/great NBA teams do not let talent walk away for nothing, and I am opposed to that outcome, as I've said before.) So basically, we re-sign Luol to a similar deal, or trade him before that time comes (more on this later).

Finally, we have to look at Joakim Noah (see, I am slowly going to make sense of this eventually). Let me get this out of the way, I hated Joakim Noah when he was at Florida. I even hated him the night he was drafted by the Bulls. And you can see why ...


Continue reading: Why the Bulls Must Trade Luol Deng: To Keep Joakim Noah and win a Championship

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