It wasn't too long ago that the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls. They didn't give up a whole lot to get him, but he's gong to be a free agent at the end of the year. Since the Cavs are sitting at 20-33 and are 3 games out of a playoff spot with 29 games to go, there have been some rumors (or perhaps just ideas?) that the Cavs might look to trade Deng before the deadline.
Let's run through the arguments for and against moving Deng. Note that some of these arguments are mutually exclusive and some of them aren't.
Why the Cavs might want to trade Deng:
- The most obvious reason is that he's a free agent at the end of the year. Conventional wisdom is that he won't re-sign with the team during the offseason, so you might as well get something for him now. If you think that there's virtually no chance that Deng re-signs, then sure, trade him now. But the Cavaliers probably think that with improved play and a lot of money, they could convince Deng to sign a new contract.
- You might be able to get a first round pick in this 2014 draft by trading Luol Deng. There will obviously be a number of teams interested in acquiring him, so you might be able to create a sort of bidding war and get a decent asset in exchange.
- He's not helping the Cavs right now. He's been worse in Cleveland than he was in Chicago and there hasn't been a substantial difference between when he plays and when he sits.
- This team is going nowhere. Even if they scratch and claw their way into the playoffs, they'll face the Heat or Pacers in the first round and get swept. What good is that? Having the 15th pick in the draft isn't particularly helpful and getting rid of Deng would presumably mean that the Cavs get a better draft pick by virtue of being worse for the rest of the year.
- Get the young players some more time. Why did Cleveland draft Sergey Karasev if he's never going to play? As noted in the previous bullet point, this team is going nowhere. So let's get the young guys some playing time and improve our odds at the lottery while we're at it.
Reasons why the Cavs might not want to trade Deng:
- Related to the first bullet point above, the team might believe that they can convince Deng to stay. Citing reports from the first week that he was here isn't particularly helpful when we're talking about a decision that will be made in July. A lot can change before then. The Cavs have won 4 games in a row, the culture seems to be improving. If they finish the season strong, it's not unrealistic to think that Deng opts to stay and build something here in Cleveland.
- There has been a significant and apparent difference in the Cavaliers organization since Chris Grant was fired. David Griffin took over and the team suddenly started playing well. There's no way for us to know how Grant impacted the team on a day-to-day basis, but this team looks a lot different than the one we saw earlier in the year. Deng has been with the Cavs for a handful of weeks and his veteran presence and professional attitude has helped contribute to stabilizing the locker room, it just took some time.
- Missing the playoffs and ending up with the 13th or 14th pick isn't the end of the world. At the beginning of the year, the goal was to make the playoffs. It was a reasonable goal but essentially everything went wrong for the Cavs. The point of this season was to see improvement and to build some positive momentum for the future. There's still time to do that. Establishing a system, a culture, and a foundation for a winning franchise takes time. This year hasn't gone as the Cavs would have hoped, but they can still go into the offseason feeling good about their direction going forward.
- Trading away Deng sends a negative message to the players in the locker room. I think this is one of the most important arguments against trading Luol Deng. After winning 4 straight games and finally buying into what the coaching staff is trying to accomplish, you trade one of your best veterans? What does that tell the team? As an organization, you have to show players that you're serious about winning if you want them to be serious about winning. Trading Deng for future assets does the opposite of that.
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