For the second time this season, a team has traded away what was thought to be a piece vital to their immediate competitiveness and almost immediately got better instead.
On Dec. 9, the date the Toronto Raptors traded small forward Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings for an interesting collection of apparently misfit toys including Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes, they were 7-12 and appeared to be headed pretty much nowhere.
Projections for Toronto after the trade were dire. The general thinking was that new general manager Masai Ujiri was blowing the whole thing up and going into tank-now mode.
A month later, and Toronto is 11-5 since the trade and after a 96-80 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night lead the Atlantic Division by four games over the Nets and are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Chicago Bulls traded small forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers late Monday night. The Bulls didn’t even get an interesting collection of players. Instead, they got the remainder of Andrew Bynum’s non-guaranteed two-year contract—which couldn’t have been tossed away any more quickly had it been toxic waste—and a passle of draft picks.
The general thinking was that team president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, with point guard Derrick Rose already gone with a knee injury, were beginning to blow the whole thing up to go into tank-now mode. At the time of the trade, the Bulls were 14-18 and appeared to be headed pretty much nowhere. Projections for Chicago after the trade were dire.
Sound familiar so far?
Roughly a week later, and Chicago is 3-0 since the trade and after a 103-97 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, 3 ½ games ahead of both the Bobcats and New York Knicks, who are currently in a virtual tie for ninth.
Obviously, the sample sizes aren’t even remotely comparable—16 games for the Raptors compared to just three for the Bulls—but the initial trend in Chicago certainly appears to be headed on a similar path.
It’s a question, however, that could have a much more definitive answer around Feb. 5.
That will be 16 games after the trade.
As far as last week went, the Bulls had a perfect week, winning all three of their games. They beat the Suns on Tuesday, won at Milwaukee on Friday and came home to best the Bobcats on Saturday.
Oh, and there was that whole “trade your leading scorer away for a throw-away contract and a bunch of draft picks” thing.
As previously mentioned, Chicago is currently 17-18, fifth place in the East, 3½ games ahead of the ninth-place Bobcats and Knicks. The Bulls trail the Central Division-leading Indiana Pacers by 11½ games and are in second place.
Here is the week that was, including game reviews, some news and notes, the rookie watch, injury updates, a look at the Bulls’ stats for the week and season and player of the week selection, as well as a look ahead to next week’s action (all statistical information from NBA.com/Stats):
Topics: Chicago Bulls