CHICAGO – The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Andrew Bynum in time – and got an All-Star in return.
The Cavaliers acquired Luol Deng from the Bulls late Monday night for Bynum and three future draft picks, beating the deadline to guarantee his full contract for the season.
Along with Bynum, who had recently been suspended indefinitely by the Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team, the Cavaliers also sent the Bulls a first-round pick, two second-rounders, and gave the Bulls the right to swap first-round choices in 2015 if the Cavs are not in the lottery.
Deng has been an All-Star the last two seasons. But he will be a free agent after this season, and with Bulls' championship aspirations gone following Derrick Rose's season-ending knee injury, there was no reason to hold onto him and risk losing him for nothing.
"We have great respect for Luol Deng, as a player and a person. He has been an incredible contributor to our team on the court, and he has also done great things in the community," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. "On behalf of the entire Bulls organization, I want to thank Luol for his years in Chicago."
Deng is averaging a career-best 19 points this season and has been a member of the league's All-Defensive team. He's also a former winner of the NBA's sportsmanship award, and his professionalism will be welcomed by the Cavaliers, who quickly ran out of patience with Bynum.
"Luol reflects all that we are striving for in building our team," Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. "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 signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Cavs in July, but only $6 million of the $12.5 million he was scheduled to earn this season was guaranteed if he was still on Cleveland's payroll by Jan. 7.
Now the Bulls can waive him and earn that salary relief – their release in announcing the deal never mentions anything about Bynum playing for them – and position themselves for the future.
The Bulls get a future first-round pick that had belonged to Sacramento, along with 2015 and 2016 second-round picks Cleveland had obtained from the Portland Trail Blazers.
"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," Forman said.
Bynum averaged 8.4 points in 24 games for the Cavaliers. He sat out all last season with Philadelphia because of knee surgery in his only season with the 76ers, but the way his contract was structured made him worth the risk for Cleveland.
But the Cavaliers suspended him on Dec. 28, excusing him from all team activities while they searched for a deal.