It'll be happening more and more in a post-Sam Tribune, but I've yet to get over the annoying twinge I feel when KC "who will be shopped" Johnson sneaks his opinions into a report.
Deng and Gordon remain supremely confident players, and declining last year's lucrative offers was their right as restricted free agents. But what their decisions also did was signal a shift from the selfless play that had defined the previous three playoff teams to more individual agendas.
[From KC's ass to your ears. (or something.)]
Beyond the awful leap in logic (honestly, this whole post could be a rant over what he's saying), there's a semantic, yet important, error in that paragraph. Deng and Gordon weren't restricted free agents when they turned down the extensions. They were a year away from restricted free agency (i.e., now).
And that is why, when the extensions were offered, it was under the premise that each deal may not be up to perceived market value, but that was because they weren't on the market. They were still contractually under team control whether they signed extensions or not. Signing the extension would be forfeiting their ability to be on that market, in exchange for long-term security.
(It's also why the Bulls didn't really 'negotiate' with Luol or Ben at that time. They didn't have to, and while the players may not have thought so, I thought that tactic was fair. )
Especially after (but not limited to) the relatively poor season they both had, it's been instead framed (apologies to KC, reading John Jackson is a far worse alternative to your work) that at the time, these extensions were a complete gift on the organization's part, and that both players have since proven to not be worth that initial offer based on a bad year.
But that offer was made with the acknowledgement that it wasn't completely market-based. So it's not a given that the Bulls should offer less, the bad season is just one factor thrown in with the others that have changed from 12 months ago: the players being a year older, the ability to offer 6 years instead of 5, the qualifying offer, the new direction of the team, and the market. Not just the teams with cap room, but anybody with a desire to pay can start the mechanizations of possible sign/trades through agents and their suddenly-disgruntled clients.
What happened last season shouldn't be absolved, but it shouldn't close the book on anything either. I believe, and it's possible that the Bulls believe as well, that both players are worth more than the 5 years and $50m they were offered last season. I wouldn't say too much more (judging by Paxson's pace, there will be plenty of time to get into that), but I'd rather the Bulls be called 'dumb' for coming back with a comparable offer than everyone laughing at the 'dumb' Ben and Luol for turning down the money preseason. While they're playing for another team.