Happy Draft Day! While fans remain focused on what player(s) could be joining their teams via the NBA Draft, the free agency and trade rumor mill never rests. Mike McGraw from the Daily Herald (a suburban Chicago newspaper) is reporting a rumor that Luol Deng could be on his way to the Magic in exchange for Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat. However, while he says the rumor has had some “legs”, he doesn’t believe anything will go further.
This deal would save the Bulls about $22 million in future salaries, but it wouldn’t give them any more cap space to add a second free agent this summer. In fact, it would erase about $300,000 in cap space, which probably makes this move unlikely.
I am not so sure that it’s as unlikely as he says. Read my analysis after the jump.
At first glance, this appears to be a solid trade for both teams. It would clear up the small forward position for LeBron James and add much needed depth for Chicago. The Magic would receive a substantial upgrade at the 3 position and an upgrade over Matt Barnes in almost every statistical category. Deng had a higher three-point field goal percentage than both Barnes and Pietrus last year and is an effective slasher who averaged nearly 5 free-throw attempts per game. That is more free-throw attempts per game than any player on the Magic besides Dwight Howard. Defense? According to basketball-reference.com, Deng had a defensive rating (estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) last year of 106. Compared to Barnes and Pietrus (who had respective ratings of 103 and 104) the Magic wouldn’t be losing much on the defensive side of the floor. I would even expect his defense ratings to increase once he has Dwight Howard behind him. Gortat is a great back up to Dwight, but everyone knew he was trade bait as soon as he signed the extension. Gortat is a solid player, but 4 more years and ~$25 million is a lot to pay for 13 minutes a game.
Salary wise, Deng is on the books for 4 more years and $51+ million. That is a lot of money, but remember, Deng is only 25 years old. Although there hasn’t been much more to this rumor thus far, it could be a big win for both teams. LeBron doesn’t need a second superstar to sign with him in Chicago, he needs depth. They already have a top-5 PG in Derrick Rose and this trade would provide them with two key players off the bench to make a championship run.
For the Magic, you lose depth with this trade but gain an impact player without having to trade Vince Carter’s expiring contract. A starting lineup of Jameer, VC, Deng, Rashard and Dwight would be scary for the rest of the league and Otis has proven that he can go out and bring in the depth to make the rest work (maybe re-sign Barnes to make up for the loss of MP). There hasn’t been much reported on the validity of this rumor, but stay tuned. If Chicago can somehow add LeBron, then everything changes and the Magic could be at the head of the line to acquire the services of Luol Deng.