Luol Deng in a sign-and-trade?

By Jason Wojciechowski on July 23, 2008 at 8:42 AM

Laker Nation links to Hoopsworld, which has the news that the Lakers, Pistons, Heat and Jazz have all talked to the Bulls about a sign-and-trade involving Luol Deng. This becomes an issue because apparently Deng and the Bulls aren't exactly seeing eye-to-eye in contract negotiations.

Figuring out sign-and-trade deals is particularly hard because you don't know what kind of salary the signee is going to have, and you have to kind of eyeball the whole thing because the Trade Machine can't deal with sign-and-trades. A deal with the Lakers likely wouldn't be the blockbuster Odom-for-piles-of-awesomeness I've dreamed up on this blog before, but let's see if we can figure out some things that'd work given some possible Deng salaries. First, a note: per Larry Coon's remarkable Salary Cap FAQ, we know that Deng is likely to get the 20% raise necessary to trigger the Base Year Compensation rule, which means that his salary for trade purposes is going to be considered is his previous salary or 50% of his new salary, whichever is greater. Deng pulled down $3.3 million last year, so it'll either be that number or 50% of his new salary if he makes more than $6.6 million in the first year of his new deal.

So let's say Deng gets $7 million in the first year of the new deal. His cap number in a trade is then $3.5 million, which means the Lakers could send back Trevor Ariza and be within the 125% rule. If you increase Deng's salary a little bit, you could make Luke Walton the guy you send back, but do you think the Bulls are interested in a player with guaranteed money for the next five years who's coming off ankle surgery and whose bloodlines don't exactly suggest great health in his future?

I'm sure the Lakers wouldn't mind passing off Chris Mihm to the Bulls, but his salary is so low ($2.7 million) that another player would have to be included, and the Lakers don't really have any other players at the right salary level to throw in except Jordan Farmar and Coby Karl (and Karl's contract for this season is non-guaranteed; I don't know how that works with the traded player rules). Obviously, anyone would give up Mihm to get Deng. And I think you'd probably give up Ariza as well, even if you might miss Ariza's defense, because Deng's offensive talent and his ability to background his game for the greater good are something you can't really pass up if they're available for such a low cost. And I guess, though I hate to say it, you'd say the same thing about Jordan Farmar. Point guards aren't hard to find in this league, but as long as Phil Jackson's around, they're not that important in the offense, either, and Farmar's not exactly known as a stellar defensive guard. On the other hand, what does Chicago want with another guard? No, I think if a Deng-to-the-Lakers deal happened, it'd be for Ariza.

Of course, there are multiple questions here. What kind of money does Deng want? Does he want to play in L.A. over Detroit, Miami, or Utah? Would Chicago encourage Deng to agree to go to one of those other teams because they had better trade packages in place? Let's look at that last question.

Utah has a variety of small salaries, including Ronnie Price, Ronnie Brewer, Jason Collins, and Jason Hart. (I'm sorry, did I say "variety"? I meant "salaries attached to guys named Ronnie and Jason". That's odd.) All of these guys are in the $1.2 to $2.5 million range, so you could put together two or three of them to get Deng. That said, I'm not sure any one of them is as attractive as Trevor Ariza or Jordan Farmar except for Brewer. And does Utah give up Brewer for Deng? The Jazz already have Kirilenko and Harpring at the small forward spot, and maybe Kyle Korver if you want to count him there, but they don't really have a shooting guard outside of Brewer (again, depending on how you classify Korver). Are the Jazz comfortable giving up Brewer, sliding Korver in the starting SG spot, and running with both either Deng or Kirilenko off the bench?

Ok, how about Miami? They pretty much have Marcus Banks at the right salary level, and if, as I figure, the Bulls have no interest in Jordan Farmar, what would they want with Banks?

Finally, Detroit. Joe Dumars has Amir Johnson ($3.6 million), Jason Maxiell ($1.9), Rodney Stuckey ($1.7), and Arron Afflalo ($1.0) to work with. I'm not sure Dumars would be prepared to trade Maxiell or Stuckey for a guy who'd back up Tayshaun Prince when he's apparently also spent the entire summer trying to move Rasheed Wallace (Maxiell would step in there) and Chauncey Billups (Stuckey would step in). If a deal he can't beat pops up for one of those guys, he'd hate to be stuck saying no because he suddenly doesn't have a point guard on the roster, having traded him for a shiny new small forward. But Amir Johnson, desite twice the salary of Maxiell, doesn't seem to have quite the hype. If he sticks around with Detroit, it looks like he's destined to be Maxiell's backup. That makes him an eminently tradeable guy. For a Chicago team whose bigs consist of an expiring Drew Gooden (likely to be a big trade asset at this year's deadline), Joakim Noah, Ty Thomas, and Aaron Gray, getting a guy like Johnson would have to be considered a coup.

This is obviously all at the rumor stage, but let me tell you, it's a vastly more exciting rumor than Odom-for-Artest, even if it would make the Lakers a major luxury tax payer for years to come, what with Kobe, Pau, Bynum, maybe Odom, and Deng on the team. But goodness, what a team that'd be, right?