Salary cap flexibility in '09 (which, by the way, would make a great presidential campaign promise) is no secret, which is why some reporters in Chicago, given the unresolved nature of Luol Deng's contract status, are already starting to spend Paul Allen's future cash. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Times writes ...
If no extension is reached, Deng's camp could offer the Bulls a window to execute a sign-and-trade so as not to lose their former lottery acquisition for nothing. The Charlotte Observer reported Monday that talks broke off between restricted free agent Emeka Okafor and the Bobcats, who could pursue sign-and-trade options.Mike McGraw of the Arlington Daily Herald gets even more specific (inasmuch as blind speculation can be "specific").
In lieu of that, Deng would sign a one-year tender offer for $4.45 million, become an unrestricted free agent in 2009 and not negotiate with the Bulls.
Portland is one of several teams projected to have ample salary-cap space in 2009 where Deng would fit. This fact, along with a feeling the Bulls have had two summers to negotiate with Deng, is creating this urgency.
Deng will have some quality options if he decides to sign the one-year qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. How does joining a Portland starting lineup of Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Jerryd Bayless sound?It's an interesting notion, but I find it hard to think about bringing new players in until we get to see how the players we already have fit together. Sure, Deng is a nice piece, but if Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster continue to improve is it really necessary to add another small forward? And even if it's decided that neither Outlaw or Webster are the answer at SF, do you go out and get an offensive-minded 3 when you already have Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden eating up touches? Is Deng so good that you take him simply if he'll accept an offer? Is management in Chicago really considering what Portland might do in free agency a year from now when planning out their strategy of how to deal with Deng today? The answer to any or all of these questions might be "yes," but again, I find it hard to look that far ahead, especially with the current team.
The Blazers are a dangerous opponent for the Bulls right now, because they have an opening for Deng on the floor and will have cap room next year when Raef LaFrentz and Steve Francis come off the books.
Portland is one of several teams expected to have significant cap room in 2009. If Deng or fellow restricted free agent Ben Gordon take the qualifying offer, they are probably as good as gone after one more awkward, lame-duck season in Chicago.
There figures to be an avid trade market for Deng if it comes to that. Portland would probably be willing to give back Channing Frye and Travis Outlaw, which isn't a great option. It's conceivable Dallas would offer Josh Howard for Deng or Detroit might swap Tayshaun Prince.