Sixty-nine days. That is how long it took the Cavs to cut ties with Andrew Bynum. Talk about poetic justice. The Cavs dealt Bynum to the Bulls for Luol Deng and three future draft picks. Coming into the year, the Cavs were a trendy playoff pick in the East. In retrospect, it’s easy to laugh at the sentiment for a variety of reasons. Perhaps, because the Cavs’ #1 pick Anthony Bennett looks like the worst top pick of all time. Or maybe it’s because Andrew Bynum contemplated retiring a month into the season. Or maybe it’s because Kyrie Irving is having his worst season as a pro. What do you get when you mix that all together, plus giving Matthew Dellavedova major minutes? A pitiful squad currently 13th in the standings in the East, ahead only of the Milwaukee Bucks, who arguably aren’t an NBA franchise and the Sixers, who decided to trade their franchise 23 year old All Star point guard for an 18 year old with a torn ACL. To make it even more clear just how bad Bynum has been so far, numerous NBA teams had recently expressed interest in trading for Bynum–so that they could cut him! It’s not clear exactly what the Cavs are looking to do from here. Building around Irving, Waiters, Bennett, and Tristan Thompson has been a futile, if at least amusing, attempt at winning games. It’s doubtful that Deng changes much this year. At the very least, Deng pushes Bennett closer to working at McDonalds, but beyond that, it is more about cap flexibility. Deng is in the final year of his contract, and it was no secret that Chicago had been trying to deal him before the deadline. On paper, a Kyrie-Waiters-Deng-Thompson-Varejao starting five doesn’t sound that bad–especially when there are only three teams in the East sitting above .500 (and one of them is Atlanta, at 18-17). But what are the Cavs trying to accomplish at this point? They are so far down the standings, doesn’t it make more sense to complete the art of tanking that they seem to have perfected ever since LeBron left? At this point, not even the most delusional Cleveland fans could envision LeBron returning home, so they can finally forget about that. Teaming up Kyrie with Jabari Parker would at least give the Cavs some reason for hope. Or if the Cavs are sick of having to wait for young players to develop, they could package their first rounder this year with Varejao and try to acquire a star.
On the other side of the deal, the Bulls are finally realizing the Rose era is over. It is a sad but necessary step in rebuilding the franchise. Rose was one of the few players in the league not intimidated by LeBron and capable of going toe-to-toe with LeBron, but his story looks like it’ll go along the lines of Penny Hardaway’s career. Getting future picks and creating cap space for Luol Deng is as much as the Bulls can ask for. Next up, the Bulls will likely deal Carlos Boozer to the first sucker to bite. Chicago will be building around Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, whoever they draft this upcoming summer, and whatever they can get from Rose in the future. The Cavs’ pick is top 10-protected, but if the Bulls end up snagging a lottery pick for Deng, then they’ll feel great about this deal. After all, Deng was most likely going to leave Chicago in Free Agency this summer.