The Chicago Bulls were riding high last year after a 50-16 record in the regular season gave them the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls rode that momentum and were beating the Philadelphia 76ers handily in the very first game of the playoffs when star point guard Derrick Rose's left knee gave out and his ACL was torn.
The resulting momentum shift gave a boost to Philadelphia, allowing 76ers to upset the Bulls, beating Chicago in six games and setting up a second round match-up with Boston. A promising season swung with Rose's knee as the Bulls struggled to score and were beaten by the young upstart 76ers.
With Rose set to rehab his knee and come back next year, it looks to be another dominating performance from the east's best regular season team. Adding Rose back to the team would propel Chicago back to championship contender status, but that hasn't stopped General Manager Gar Forman from shopping some of his players.
It appears that Luol Deng is on the trading block after news dropped last week that Chicago was planning to move him to the Golden State Warriors for Andris Biedrins, Dorrell Wright, and the seventh pick in this week's NBA draft.
Those rumors were extinguished quickly when a report broke that Forman had assured Deng he was not going to be sent to Golden State. Pundits have pointed out that Forman did not say Deng would not be traded, but said he would not be traded to Golden State.
A trade, while not likely, is still on the table, and Deng understands that there is a business side to the game and Forman would just be doing his job. Deng even addressed the rumors when he was interviewed on ESPN.
I believe there is always to some extent truth behind rumors, he said. But as an athlete, if you get caught up in them, you are really wasting your time because it's not something you can control.
These rumors were not a surprise as there was a disagreement regarding whether or not Deng should play for Great Britain's Olympic basketball team in this summer's games. Deng suffered a wrist injury last season that requires surgery, but has held off on an operation to represent the country that granted his family political asylum from the Sudan when he was just a young boy. The Bulls were not happy with that decision; they wanted him to focus on the 2013 NBA season.
That injury, and Deng's contract ($27 million over the next two years) leaves the market thin for the former Duke player, and there are very few suitors willing to shell out that much money for him, despite his immense contributions on the floor.
Chicago head coach Tom Thibedeau has long named Deng as one of his favorite players, and a, glue guy on his team, that contributes in ways that can't be measured on the stat sheet. He earned his first All-Star selection this past season and averaged 14 points to go along with 8 rebounds while playing a whopping 39.4 minutes per game in Chicago.
Teams with high draft picks and a lot of cap room like the Kings, Hornets, and Suns should take notice. Deng would go great on the Kings to balance out a team full of players that need the ball in their hands to make an impact. Deng would also fit well on the Hornets, especially after the team traded starter Trevor Ariza away to set up a team to build around Anthony Davis. Phoenix would need him or a player of his caliber to try and dissuade Steve Nash from leaving in free agency.
As always, this time of year has been ripe with rumors, and only the parties involved know the truth behind them. One thing is for certain though; any team that Deng plays for will certainly reap the benefits.