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The Extra Pass: Winners, losers from Bynum/Deng trade (plus Monday’s recaps)

Jan 7, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Chicago Bulls Getty Images

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Winner: Luol Deng

Deng is going to a team that desperately needs him. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ small forwards have a PER of 9.2 and yield a PER of 15.5 to opposing small forwards, according to 82Games.  That’s a horrific net PER of –6.3. Of the 150 positions in the NBA (five per team), only three have have a worse net PER than Cleveland small forwards: Utah Jazz point guards, Sacramento Kings shooting guards and Milwaukee Bucks centers.

No longer forced to start Earl Clark or Alonzo Gee, two substandard options, the Cavaliers will feature Deng prominently. That should elevate his individual production.

Plus, Deng fills what could be a suddenly strong lineup with Kyrie Irving at point guard, one of C.J. Miles/Dion Waiters/Jarrett Jack at shooting guard, Tristan Thompson at power forward and Anderson Varejao at center. With Deng bringing everything together, the 11-23 Cavaliers should improve from here out, likely challenging for a playoff spot. That would bring positive attention to Deng for his leadership and winning pedigree, two traits many teams covet.

Not a bad opportunity heading into free agency.

Loser: Andrew Bynum

It was a longshot even before the Cavaliers suspended Bynum, but it remained possible Cleveland kept Bynum past this week’s deadline for 2013-14 salaries to become fully guaranteed. He still would have held trade value as a cap/tax reducer, given his completely unguaranteed 2014-15 salary (no way he was ever getting paid that). In exchange for keeping and paying him, the Cavaliers would have gotten a longer window to find maximum return in a deal.

Instead, Bynum is going to the Chicago Bulls, who announced they’d acquired “multiple draft picks, along with the contract of Andrew Bynum.” He’s not even an afterthought. His contract is.

The Bulls are definitely waiving Bynum and in doing so, the center will lose $6.25 million in unguaranteed 2013-14 salary.

Winners: Chris Grant and Mike Brown

Before the season, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made clear three straight trips to the lottery were enough for him. “I think there is an expectation that this team is a playoff contender,” Gilbert said.

For a moment, let’s put aside whether or not Cleveland – which certainly had enough lottery picks lately to build a strong young core but nailed only one (Kyrie Irving) before underwhelming on one (Tristan Thompson), blowing one (Dion Waiters) and potentially striking disaster on another (Anthony Bennett) – should suddenly give up tanking just in time for the best draft since 2003. Gilbert is the boss, and his underlings must try to appease the direction he sets for the team.

That’s why this trade helps the Cavaliers’ general manager, Grant, and head coach, Brown. Deng makes Cleveland more likely to reach the playoffs, which makes Grant and Brown more likely to remain employed.

Loser: Tom Thibodeau

Thibodeau is all about winning. Winning right now. Not later, not once Derrick Rose gets healthy, not for the long term. Winning this very second.

That philosophy has fostered the Bulls’ incredible competitive spirit, but it has also led Thibodeau to play his top players big minutes and right into the ground over long seasons. When the Bulls were among the Eastern Conference’s top teams, that tradeoff made sense.

Now that Thibodeau has lost two of his top players – Derrick Rose and Deng, whom Thibodeau didn’t want to lose after the season, let alone during it – it’s quite possible the coach’s fiery attitude just drives him and his players mad. The Bulls are clearly tanking, and even if that stops with dumping Deng and never approaches the level of instructing players and coaches to give less than their best, it’s unlikely Thibodeau is on board.

A coach-GM rift quite possibly just got wider.

Winner: Jerry Reinsdorf

The Bulls owner will trim his payroll this season by shedding Deng, though Chicago must still pay Bynum a little more than $1 million. More significantly, the Bulls will avoid the luxury tax, offering bigger savings.

However, the biggest impact could – should – come in future years. Avoiding the luxury tax this season, one lost when Derrick Rose went down, makes a lot of sense. That will allow Chicago to exceed the luxury tax – which could happen if Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News is right and the Bulls also amnesty Carlos Boozer, leaving them room to sign a big-time free agent – without triggering the steep repeater penalties.

But that plan would require Reinsdorf spending the big bucks when it makes more sense, which is not a given. He could always collect this year’s savings and then try to save more in the future.

Losers: Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks

These four teams definitely want to make the 2014 playoffs. They’ve sacrificed future flexibility in order to increase success this season.

All four have traded a first-round pick they could surrender in 2014 without even making the playoffs. In other words, to varying degrees, tanking might not even let these teams reap the rewards of a high draft pick. They’re fully or nearly fully on the playoff-contention track.

But it hasn’t gone so well. None of the four has a winning record, and just two would make the postseason if it began today. Here’s how they, and the two teams in this trade, stand in the Eastern Conference:

5. Wizards (14-17)

6. Bulls (14-18)

8. Pistons (14-20)

———————–

9. Nets (12-21)

12. Knicks (11-22)

13. Cavaliers (11-12)

This trade obviously shakes up the postseason picture. The Cavaliers are more likely to make the playoffs. The Bulls are less likely to make the playoffs. But the magnitude by which Cleveland’s odds increase is less than the magnitude by which Chicago’s odds decrease.

Simply, that’s because the Bulls are starting in playoff position and the Cavaliers aren’t. Deng will obviously make the Cavaliers better, especially because he fills such a glaring hole for them. But Thibodeau will keep the Bulls playing hard and defending to the best of their capabilities, and that might keep them in the postseason race.

In other words, the Wizards, Pistons, Nets and Knicks must now fend off Cleveland while still combating a dangerous Chicago.

Winner: Derrick Rose

Rose didn’t want the Bulls to rebuild, and they’re at least positioning themselves to appease their injured star. If the Bulls were set on rebuilding, they likely could have gotten a better draft pick for Deng.

Instead, they settled for two second-round picks, the right to swap picks with Cleveland in 2015 as long as Cleveland is drafting after No. 15 and another pick that is being called a first-rounder. Here are the protections on that “first-round” pick, which originally belonged to the Sacramento Kings, according to RealGM:

  • 2014: top 12
  • 2015: top 10
  • 2016: top 10
  • 2017: top 10

If the Kings don’t improve to the point they’re drafting above that line, they’ll give send 2017 second-round pick instead of a first rounder.*

*As long as the 2017 second rounder doesn’t fall 56-60. If that happens, Sacramento doesn’t have to give up any pick.

The Bulls might be betting they’re timing the Kings rebuild just right, but that’s a dangerous wager. More likely, Chicago is making amnestying Boozer and spending money this summer on a big free agent – someone who can complement Rose immediately, rather than a draft pick who will need time to develop – more palatable.

But there’s still another step: The Bulls actually amnestying Boozer and spending money this summer on a big free agent. There’s a difference between it being workable and it being done.

That’s where Rose comes in. If Rose comes back strong, he can pressure the Bulls to spend the money they now have available to build an immediate contender around him. So, Rose has a chance at his preferred direction for the team – especially he still has the star power to demand it.

-Dan Feldman

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Timberwolves 126, 76ers 95: Minnesota does this — 10 of their 17 wins are by double digits. When their outside shots are falling (they were 16-of-26 from three) they become very difficult to stop. This game was actually close for a quarter and a half, but Minnesota’s bench started the rout with an 8-0 run midway through the second and Minny put up 70 first half points. This wasn’t a defensive struggle. Then Minnesota owned the third quarter, with Kevin Love scoring 16 of his 26 in the period and it was a 31-point game and garbage time entering the fourth. Philly looked like a team in its first game home after a 17-day road trip who just relaxed. They got 20 out of Thaddeus Young, which might help his trade value.

Nets 91, Hawks 86: In a battle of “which team can better survive the loss of their star” (Deron Williams, ankle, and Al Horford, torn pectoral both out) Brooklyn had Joe Johnson dropping 23 — including a go-ahead 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter — and he was key to creating decent shots and it got the Nets another win. Brooklyn has now won three in a row, while the Hawks have dropped three straight and are 2-4 since Horford got injured. Jeff Teague had 16 points but needed 15 shots to get there.

Clippers 101, Magic 81: That final score makes the game seem closer than it actually was. Seriously. The Cippers had an early 18-0 and were up 20-3 before you could blink, then led by 26 at the half and by 35 at one point in the third. This became a Clipper showcase dunkfest, which the fans at Staples loved. Give Darren Collison some props for leading the onslaught, he had 13 in the first quarter and 21 for the game, plus seven dimes. Also credit Orlando, which played poor defense and shot just 35.7 percent on the night.

—Kurt Helin

  1. pl4tinum514 - Jan 7, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Dion Waiters is actually a decent young player with alot of upside. He’s shooting 42% but he gets to the rim at will, has a fiery attitude, and he’s a tough competitor. I’d say it wasn’t a bad pick overall. Bennett on the other hand, looks like a pretty damn awful player.

    • spursareold - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      Getting to the rim at will means nothing if you’re not finishing, and anyone shooting 42% isn’t finishing at the rim.

    • zerole00 - Jan 7, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      They listed the Waiters pick as “blowing it” and the Thompson pick as “underwhelming” yet mentioned both as part of Cleveland’s “strong” line up? Which is it? Or were you expecting either of them to turn into LBJ?

  2. nard100 - Jan 7, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    Any trade that involves you getting Bynum makes you the loser plain and simple. He’s an unconscionable lazy jerk who will take your money and give you nothing in return and he’s just fine with that. He’s the basketball version of Albert Haynesworth.

    • blueintown - Jan 7, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      He’s not taking any money from the Bulls.

      • Professor Fate - Jan 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        “Winner: Jerry Reinsdorf

        The Bulls owner will trim his payroll this season by shedding Deng, though Chicago must still pay Bynum a little more than $1 million.”

      • blueintown - Jan 7, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        Owned.

    • money2long - Jan 7, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      you can expect thumbs downs until heat fans know for sure where he’ll land. i have this strange feeling they are now taking offense to anything negative said as it pertains to bynum because they almost feel he is theirs. until he finds a landing spot, you can expect negative feedback on your negative feedback of bynum.

  3. bougin89 - Jan 7, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    Smart move by the Cavs to structure Bynums contract the way they did this offseason. Even if he would have never played at all for the Cavs this season it turned into a pretty nice trade asset.

  4. brianscalabrine - Jan 7, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    Tristan Thompson must have ignored PBT’s interview requests in the past, because they are always hating on this guy. Is he ever going to be a star? Probably not. But, what percentage of top 5 picks really end up being stars/superstars? It’s probably 25% at best.

    The guy is averaging 11.9 and 9.8 in his 3rd year (he’s only freaking 22). Sure, he takes 10 shots a game and is shooting around 45%, but don’t you think that will improve as he gets older?

    Dear PBT: Stop drinking the Haterade. And I’m not even a Cavs fan.

  5. tomasekradek - Jan 7, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks

    Losers? Really? Please explain.
    I think the Bulls will probably fall behind them and it’s not anywhere near guaranteed the Cavs will be good enough to jump over. Ain’t nothing changed…

    • tomasekradek - Jan 7, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      I mean the Bulls have 2 or 3 games on those teams (except wizards) so it’s pretty easy to lose those without Deng in about 50 games

  6. metroplexsouthsider - Jan 7, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    The Lakers are losers too, for getting greedy on the original Bynum-Gasol talks. Can’t believe they weren’t even mentioned. Could have gotten under cap, avoided repeater tax to boot AND tanked: http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-la-lakers-are-now-officially-idiots.html

  7. indrathegod - Jan 7, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    Although it’s very true that Thompson has not evolved into the player we all expected, he was very raw to begin with. His numbers are decent for a professional athlete at 22, and I see potential there. If Waiters could grow up, he would be quite an asset as well.

    I don’t see how the Bulls win on ANY level with this trade…a protected pick (Kings) which they might not ever see at least while it matters, not enough money to go after a max player, with plenty of unresolved issues in regards to their future. Butler’s rookie contract coming to an end while this year he’s only making 1.1 mil (!), the decision to keep/let go of Hinrich who has been very instrumental in their success, Dunleavy and a heap of other issues regarding their reserves. Of course trades are always an option however, who in their right mind is looking to obtain Dunleavy at his current asking price??? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

    Cavs are the clear winners here.

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