Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has reported that the Chicago Bulls are discussing a possible contract extension with Luol Deng’s agent. Deng is in the final year of the 6-year, $71 million contract he signed in 2008, which will pay him $14.2 million in the coming season, and Wojnarowski reports that his perceived value around the league is about $50 million over four years.
This is mildly puzzling on a couple of fronts, mainly that the Bulls seemed to be trying to set themselves up for the summer of 2014 last offseason, when the so-called “2014 plan” — in which the Bulls would try to maximize their cap space to sign an elite free agent — was discussed. An extension for Deng would obviously eat into that hypothetical space.
Secondly, we know the Bulls have been discussing the possibility of trading Deng, at least to some extent. And as Deng ages, his value drops. As an expiring contract, concerns regarding Deng’s age and injury troubles are mitigated, at least somewhat.
Having said that, signing Deng to an extension now could enable the Bulls to enjoy the best of both worlds in terms of 2014 cap space and potential trades. Signing Deng to a relative discount — which may or may not actually happen, we don’t know yet — would preserve at least some cap space for next summer while also enabling the Bulls to trade Deng between the end of next season and the official start of the offseason, July 1, 2014. If his contract is allowed to expire, the Bulls would be unable to trade him unless it were in a sign-and-trade in July, which is much more complicated.
Or hey, the Bulls could just be deciding that they’re going to ride or die with their core and not worry about free agency. Which is totally fine. Carlos Boozer figures to be amnestied after this season, 2011 first-round draft pick Nikola Mirotic is expected to come over from Spain, and they’ve got an excellent team already. So maybe this is for the best.
Guess we’ll find out.