By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: The Cavaliers turned 24 games of Andrew Bynum into Luol Deng, a two-time All-Star and arguably the best small forward available on the trade market.
The Cavs acquired Deng, 28, early Tuesday morning from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Bynum’s unique contract, a heavily protected future first-round pick from the Sacramento Kings and a pair of second-round picks. The Bulls also have the right to swap places with the Cavs in the 2015 draft, but only if the Cavs make the playoffs. The swap right expires after that draft.
“We are very excited for Luol to join the Cavaliers organization,” Cavs General Manager Chris Grant said in a statement. “We have worked to acquire and maintain flexibility in order to capitalize on opportunities such as this. Luol reflects all that we are striving for in building our team. He’s a tremendous defensive player that can impact the game on both ends of the court with a team first mentality and is a high character leader.”
The Bulls are sixth in the East, 4 games ahead of the floundering Cavs, but these are two teams clearly headed in opposite directions. The Bulls have given up on the season following another injury to Derrick Rose, while the Cavs’ quest to return to the playoffs after a three-year absence was pushed into overdrive.
Deng is a 10-year veteran averaging a career-high 19 points and 6.9 rebounds. He is another veteran leader with playoff experience, something the Cavs’ locker room desperately needs. He’s a terrific defender and has the reputation of being tremendous in the locker room.
He rejected a three-year, $30 million extension offer from the Bulls on Friday, Yahoo Sports reported, which expedited his move out of Chicago. He has spent his entire career with the Bulls and leaves fourth on the team’s all-time scoring list behind Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Bob Love.
The Bulls are expected to waive Bynum before 5 p.m. Tuesday. They will owe him nothing and shave $12 million off their cap. Since they are $7.7 million over the luxury tax, that’s significant. They will save the balance of Deng’s $14 million contract for this season, plus $13.5 million in luxury taxes.
When the Cavaliers signed Bynum last summer, it was a unique and complicated contract that took days to complete. General Manager Chris Grant protected the organization in case the arrangement didn’t work, giving himself a creative trade bullet to fire this week.
Bynum’s $12 million deal is only guaranteed if he’s on the roster beyond Jan. 10, but players must first clear waivers, necessitating Bynum to be waived by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Grant and Bulls General Manger Gar Forman are close. The Cavs have coveted Deng and began checking on his availability when Rose went down with another knee injury early in the season. They were told he wasn’t available, but after Deng rejected the Bulls’ extension offer last week, talks intensified in recent days.
Deng is an unrestricted free agent after the season, but the Cavs hold his Bird Rights and can offer him more money than anyone else.
The first-round pick the Cavs are sending was acquired in the J.J. Hickson deal that also brought Omri Casspi to Cleveland. It is top 12 protected in this summer’s draft and top 10 protected from 2015-17. It becomes a second-round pick in 2017.
The second round picks are from Portland in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. The Cavs acquired them during last summer’s draft night.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.