Andrew Bynum, once considered the best center in the NBA about three years ago, was traded Monday to the Chicago Bulls for all-star forward Luol Deng. Bynum will be cut by the Bulls to save more than $20 million, allowing him to become a free agent.
This is a spectacular descent for Bynum, who was a key part of two Los Angeles Lakers championships before knee troubles and then attitude concerns stunted his career. He did not play for the Philadelphia 76ers after being traded in the Dwight Howard transaction. Bynum was beginning to show signs of recovering and regaining some of his past effectiveness, when his poor attitude led to the Cavaliers suspending him for one game and banning him from the team until Monday’s trade.
The Bulls, riddled with injuries that have wrecked their season, do not want him and will save $20.1 million in salary and luxury tax by releasing him Tuesday, before the second half of Bynum’s contract kicks in.
Meanwhile, Cleveland fortified its roster by acquiring the multi-talented Deng to play with rising star Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
Deng, 28, averaged 19 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 23 games for the Bulls, whose season turned for the worst with Derrick Rose’s season-ending knee injury.
“We have worked to acquire and maintain flexibility in order to capitalize on opportunities such as this,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. “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.”
Bynum is expected to clear waivers and become a free agent by the end of the week. Though he was suspended by the Cavs for one game for conduct detrimental to the team and excused from team activities, he is expected to be chased on the open market by the champion Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks, among others.
The Bulls had said they wanted to keep Deng, whom they drafted in 2004 and signed to a $71 million extension in 2008. But talks on a new contract for Deng, who is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, had stalled and the savings and the draft considerations were enticing.
“We have great respect for Luol Deng as a player and a person,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The moves made today will put us in a better position to make the entire roster stronger for the future and to compete for a championship.”