The Bulls reportedly looked at Luol Deng trades around draft time last season, but ultimately decided to hold onto him because they didn't want to take on a bad contract back in the process. With Deng entering the final year of his deal and his future in Chicago uncertain, we knew rumors would start flying again around the two-time All-Star. And we've seen a couple of juicy ones in the last few days.
First there was Ric Bucher's report about Deng and the Cavaliers, although there weren't really any specifics there. Now we have a rumor with a bit more detail. ESPN's Marc Stein reports that the Bulls and Wizards have had "exploratory discussions" about a deal centered around Deng, the No. 3 pick and big man Emeka Okafor. The deal would hinge on Okafor opting in to his $14.5 million contract (!!!!) for next season.
While $14.5 million is a hefty contract for Okafor, it's essentially the same as Deng's ($14.215 million) and he would fill that much-needed backup center role. With the No. 3 pick, the Bulls would have a chance at that wing to replace Deng going forward, whether that be Otto Porter, Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo (or somebody else?).
The trade would most likely add a few million in salary next year and take the Bulls deeper into the luxury tax while possibly moving them further away from title contention for the time being, so it wouldn't be surprising if they didn't want to do it. However, if the Bulls aren't confident that Deng will re-sign at a discount, this helps keep flexibility in 2014 while also actually getting something back for Lu instead of watching him walk for nothing. And if the draft pick panned out, perhaps it would move them closer to serious contention in a few years.
For what it's worth, Mike Prada over at Bullets Forever thinks this would be a pretty crappy deal for the Wizards. And I'd agree with him. As solid as Deng is, giving up a top-3 pick and a quality big man on an expiring deal is a bit much for a guy who has racked up a lot of minutes in the past few years, has had some injury problems and may just be a rental.
UPDATES: As expected, almost no chance this thing happens.