A Deng Good Deal for the Cavaliers
Late Monday night, the Cavaliers got a major mid-season facelift, dealing Andrew Bynum and future draft considerations to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for two-time All-Star Luol Deng.
A trade of some kind seemed inevitable after Bynum was suspended for the Boston game on December 28 and excused from all team activities after that. Bynum’s last appearance as a Cavalier was in the third quarter of a double-overtime loss to the Hawks on December 26. He appeared in 24 games with the Wine and Gold, getting 19 starts and averaging 8.4 points and 5.3 boards in 20.0 minutes per contest.
Bynum, who was inked to a free agent deal over the summer and spent the rest of the offseason rehabbing his surgically-repaired knee, never quite found the rhythm with Cleveland that made him an All-Star in 2012.
“I think we were very lucky to sign a contract that probably hasn’t been signed or negotiated at that level in a long time, which gave us this opportunity today – a month-and-a-half ahead of the trade deadline,” said Cavs GM Chris Grant. “It created a unique opportunity for us in the new CBA and where teams are financially and we were able to take advantage of that. So for us, I would say it worked out well and we wish nothing but the best for Andrew.”
Deng, meanwhile, is having one of his best seasons – averaging a career-best 19.0 points per game in 23 starts for Chicago. The 28-year-old native of the South Sudan is shooting .452 from the floor this season, averaging 6.9 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.0 steal in 37.4 minutes per contest. He’s topped the 20-point plateau in ten games this this season, including a stretch of six straight in late November.
Deng’s been named to the NBA All-Star team in each of the past two seasons and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2012.
“It adds another veteran to our locker room, especially for us young guys, having a guy who’s had success in his career, individually and with a team,” added Tristan Thompson. “It’s going to help us a lot because he can teach us – especially on the road – what it takes to win. It’s a luxury.”
Watch Interview: Tristan Thompson
In exchange for the 6-9, 220-pound Deng, the Cavaliers send Bynum to Chicago, along with the rights to the Kings’ first-rounder that Cleveland acquired in the J.J. Hickson trade, the two second-rounders acquired from Portland on Draft night and the right to swap its 2015 first round pick – lottery protected.
“We’d like to keep him here long term,” said Grant. “He’s 28 years old, we see him as part of our core and our youth moving forward. So we’ll get through the season and get to those discussions at the appropriate time.”
Deng has missed nine games this season with a sore left Achilles, but he returned after his latest five-game respite last Tuesday night to notch 16 points and four boards against Toronto. So far this season, Deng has scored in double-figures in every game but two. And over his last eight contests, he’s handed out 38 assists, including 11 helpers (to go with 27 points) against Cleveland in a Bulls’ loss at The Q on Nov. 30.
Deng, who was originally drafted No. 7 overall by the Suns in 2004, will provide immediate help to the Cavaliers’ starting small forward spot which, offensively-speaking, was the club’s least effective. Earl Clark has averaged 6.0 ppg this season and Alonzo Gee is scoring at a 3.6 ppg clip. Both combined to go 0-of-11 from the floor in Cleveland’s recent loss to the Pacers.
“With this (trade), I think it continues to send the message: ‘Hey, we are trying to establish a culture of defense and winning and accountability and toughness.' And I think Luol exemplifies all of those things that we’re in the process of establishing in that foundation. And those guys (in the locker room) hear and see that message loud and clear.”
Aside the offensive assistance – Deng is a career 16.1 ppg scorer and has never averaged less than double-figures in his nine seasons with Chicago – the former NBA Sportsmanship Award winner brings a wealth of experience to the league’s second-youngest squad. He’s logged 637 games (591 starts) and 48 playoff games – averaging 16.7 points, 7.0 boards, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals during the postseason.
The Cavaliers head into Tuesday night’s game with Philly at 11-23, three full games behind Detroit for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. The Deng acquisition sends a message to the team that this team can still make a serious playoff push.
“Going after a guy like this at this time, you have to give Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant credit, just the way they put the team together with certain guys and their contracts,” praised Coach Mike Brown. “It allowed us to make a move like this at this time, after taking a look at where we were after the first 30 or so games through the season.
“Bringing him in just means that those guys are serious about us trying to get to the playoffs and being a factor once we get there.”
Depending on a few issues, including the current Polar Vortex, Deng should be able to join the Cavaliers by Tuesday night or Wednesday at the latest – perfect timing for a club trying to get back on solid footing and heading west for a five-game junket.
Listen as Chris Grant, Coach Brown and Tristan Thompson discuss the Luol Deng Deal.
Part I: Chris Grant
Part II: Chris Grant