Think back six months ago. The Bulls were headed into a fresh season with promise. Derrick Rose was coming off an MVP season. And the team looked poised to make a championship run.
Then the injuries mounted. And when Rose's ACL exploded, so did all those warm and fuzzies from earlier in the year.
And now, the Bulls might ship Luol Deng to Golden State for the No. 7 pick in the upcoming draft. Wha?
This no longer seems like a team moving forward.
ESPN reports the friction with Deng surrounds his unwillingness to get surgery for his wrist injury. Deng wants to play in the Olympics. The Bulls want him to go under the knife. Is that a reason to bail on a guy?
Deng is a solid piece of the puzzle. He's no superstar, but he's a fine complimentary piece. Toss him overboard and you're looking at a rookie who has to bulk up to NBA size, get used to NBA speed and avoid crucial mistakes in crunch time. It's hard to think of the last rookie who played big minutes for an NBA champion. (Magic Johnson?)
Most experts say there's a drastic fall-off in talent after this year's No. 1 pick. By pick seven, the Bulls could be rummaging through a junk drawer for a diamond. Clearly, there are no guarantees Deng would return at 100 percent, but there's a better chance he'll be a better 2012 player than whoever the Bulls might select.
The Bulls are possibly one starter and a few bench players away from challenging the Heat in the East. Dealing Deng wouldn't solve that problem, unless the Bulls traded him for a younger vet with an upside.
And it seems the trade is currently built on spite. Dumping Deng because he won't get surgery is petty. The guy obviously wants to heal and play well. So does Derrick Rose.
It feels like the Bulls are playing blackjack and they have a hand of 17. Any move now could tip them out of contention. But staying put gives no guarantees either.
It's time to tread carefully. With surgical moves, the team could battle the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Get sloppy and they'll join teams like Boston and Atlanta and Orlando - several starters away from contention.
It's rare a team with the best record in the conference would want to ditch a starter for a rookie, but that could be happening. Look at the top seven in the last several drafts.