Unfortunately the first important piece of Chicago Bulls related news in several months is not a good one. First reported by Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago, Luol Deng’s agent, Herb Rudoy, that Deng will be testing the free agent waters next offseason and that any contract extension discussions are tabled until the conclusion of the 2013-2014 season.
Over the summer, key members of Chicago’s front office expressed their interest in signing Luol Deng back long term. However, it is also widely believed that Chicago wants Deng to take a pay cut from his approximately $14 million per year salary. To this point, no numbers have been disclosed.
Clearly the Bulls are not offering Deng what he and his agent believe he can command on the free agency market. As stated before in the trading Deng post Braedan and I did in July, Luol Deng could potentially walk out of free agency not having to take a pay cut at all. Several months back Andre Iguodala, then of the Denver Nuggets, walked into free agency and was offered $14 million per year by the Sacramento Kings. The offer effectively set the market for players like Deng. Though Deng is slated as the eighth best player in next year’s free agency (assuming all the stars opt out of their contracts), a handful of teams will strike out on the big name players and overpay to get the next guy on the list. In 2014 that player will be Deng.
Though he’s in a good situation in Chicago on a contending team, entering free agency is ultimately the smartest thing for Deng to do career wise. While he may be risking his chance for a title, Deng is not a player like Lebron James or Derrick Rose with “lifetime” endorsement deals and needs to make as much money as he possibly can while he’s playing. Chicago is going to be cash strapped for the foreseeable future and will try to get Deng as cheap as possible, somewhere from $9-12 million per year is my guess. Even if Deng doesn’t get a $14 million per year contract from any other team, he will still end up with a contract that will pay him what Chicago was willing to give him.
There are no reports on if the Bulls plan to hang onto Deng and risk losing him for nothing or place him on the trading block, however we should all begin to brace ourselves for an onslaught of trade rumors throughout the season.