Kobe Bryant, Ben Gordon & Luol Deng – Trades and Contracts

So the internet is buzzing with Kobe trade speculation again after ESPN’s Chris Sheridan reported the Bulls and the Lakers are talking.  While I think it’s Chris’ job to write this type of article and am not blaming him for doing so, everyone else needs to calm down.  I’d say the odds of this trade happening anytime soon are 100:1 and the odds of it going down before the season starts are 10000:1.

Hopefully the Bulls and the Lakers are talking.  Fans of every team in the league should hope their GM is talking to the Lakers.  That doesn’t mean anything is actually going to happen.  I can guarantee you that the Bulls are not giving up Deng, Gordon, Thomas and Noah.

I’ve gone in to more depth before about what the Bulls should or shouldn’t give up for Kobe and you can see that here.  If you know more details about who can and can’t be traded because of contracts please post them as comments.  I know Nocioni can’t be traded for a while since his contract is new.  I don’t think that would be true about Gordon or Deng if they get extensions because those wouldn’t kick in until next year (right?). 

Until some actual news or new developments happen regarding a Kobe trade let’s all focus on contracts for Gordon and Deng.  I think this situation provides an interesting dilemma for Pax.  Very few players from the class of ’04 have signed extensions despite being able to for the first time in their careers.  I think GM’s are unwilling to risk overpaying after seeing guys like Varejao and Pavlovic unable to do much with their restricted free agency.  For all the drama that accompanied Mo Williams’ restricted free agency, he’s still on the Bucks, right?  The strategy is to let the market set the price for players instead of paying them based on speculation of what they’ll produce. 

I think this strategy is unwise for the Bulls when it comes to Deng and Gordon for two reasons:

1 – They’ll be much more expensive next season than they are today.  Sure, they could get hurt this year and then may have to take less, but barring an injury they’ll both likely put up better numbers than they did last season and thus demand larger contracts.  This scenario is particularly likely for Deng.  Gordon probably will produce more this season, but his inability to guard bigger SGs may be exposed even more and hurt his perceived value.  Either way, if you’re not trading for Kobe, locking these guys up is an absolute must do for the franchise.

B – We’re not talking about Varejao and Pavlovic here.  I think it’s clear that the Lakers would have been willing to go over the cap this past offseason to sign a restricted free agent like Deng to a huge contract if it would have kept Kobe happy (or at least quiet).  Next year who knows which teams will be in the same situation.  If the Lakers can somehow make it through the season with Bryant still on the roster they could pick off a Bull with a big contract then.  Gilbert Arenas is keeping his options open and the Wizards may need to replace him if he leaves or need to add a player to placate him if he demands a stronger team.  The point is, these guys are desirable talents that other teams will want.  Pax needs to be thinking about the summer Rashard Lewis had much more than the summer Sasha Pavlovich had.  

K.C. Johnson wrote today:

Paxson's negotiating philosophy follows the belief
that an extension two seasons before it's mandatory
has to involve some give-and-take. The money is
guaranteed. A player's health and production isn't.

His philosophy is probably appropriate in most situations.  However, the agents representing Gordon and Deng should see the Bulls are somewhat backed into a corner.  The bottom line is the Bulls need Luol Deng and Ben Gordon.  We know they’re not going to sign a high-impact free agent from another roster in the summer of 2008.  Paxson has shown that he’s unwilling to trade these players for another star.  Given that he won’t add a star player via trade or free agency, what choice does he have?

I say he should just pony up and pay the men.  Give them a bit more than he wants to and the line he gave Hinrich about taking one for the team so they can have the flexibility to continue to get better with minor tweaking.  Shape the contracts so they increase over the years as Ben Wallace’s decreases and other free agents come off the books.  All that means is in a few season instead of having solid veterans on the bench like Adrian Griffin and Viktor Khryapa  they’ll have undrafted rookies on minimum contracts.  They’re not going to play anyway, so isn’t that stomachable?  Isn’t locking up Ben and Luol worth practicing with a Thomas Gardner instead of a Grif?

Winning in the NBA costs a lot of money, but it also makes a lot of money, especially in a market like Chicago.  You’re either going to have to pay potential future all-stars like Gordon and Deng or you’re going to have to pay current all-stars like Kobe.  The Bulls need to pick one and move forward.   

5 Responses to “Kobe Bryant, Ben Gordon & Luol Deng – Trades and Contracts”

  1. 1 Anonymous
    November 1, 2007 at 1:23 am

    DOn’t need Kobe, get a big man, Kobe is the best but our players are still young and the time taken for Kobe to lead us to championship will be the same that these players would be deceloped stud. We need a big man, Jermaine Oneal,we don’t need Kobe

  2. 2 Claude Yen
    November 1, 2007 at 1:31 am

    Since the Jordan era Chicago encountered the frigid tundra of loss, from a season where we struggled to win 20 games, where we entered the top 10 in the draft and where we as avid and dedicated fans endured loss after loss night in night out. Players drafted got hurt, Jayson williams, Fizer didn’t develop as he should, Curry had irregular heart beat, and Tyson Chandeller, well i am still angry that he took that irrational 2 pointer when we down three 4 seconds to go in the playoffs vs. Washington couple years back. All in all our hardships have finally been rewarded, we don’t need more ticket sales as we are among the lead leaders in attendance, our drafts have been remarkable the last couple seasons, Ben Gordon Luo Deng and Kirk Hinrich all guards that have adopted Coach’s philosophy of hard work. Kobe won’t make our team a better team, he will be an individual scorer who will retard Dengs progress like he did with Odom and Caron Butler. Chicago is in desperate need to keep our core work harder and finally break through further in the playoffs with our core warriors. Mr. Paxson if you have a hear try getting a big man to support Ben Wallace, let’s say, Jermaine Oneal, an all star big man who also wants to be traded. Kobe will be phenomenal but please have faith in our young and upcoming stars, i as a fan have endured enough of our worst to finally see our best be hindered. There is nothing more beautiful than team basketball, we don’t need a one man team wrecking spoilt brat who doesn’t want the “team” to win and anyone else to be better than him, even if it means to degrade his teammates. Work with our players, they care for each other and give it their best, please Thanks mr. Paxson

  3. 3 312chill
    November 1, 2007 at 8:44 am

    I think your idea that Kobe hindered the development of Caron Butler and Lamar Odom is very interesting. I never thought of that before and while I don’t/didn’t watch enough Lakers games to be able to say I definitely agree, I think it’s very possible. I also could see how that could happen with Deng and Kobe together.

    I think you’re both absolutely right that the Bulls need a great big man much more than a great 2 guard. The problem right now is possibly the best guard in the game is available while there is no great big man that’s all that available.

    I don’t think Jermaine O’Neal is the right answer. First of all I think he’s overrated. His FG % isn’t very high for a big. He’s hurt a lot and really only had one great season. Plus, as of now he’s not on the market. I think he will be at the trading deadline and I’m sure the Bulls will look at him, but I think they should keep searching.

  4. 4 Al
    November 3, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    I hope John Paxson sees that the lazy play of his players so far this season is entirely due to the fact that this team is in limbo right now. With all the rumors that were surrounding Kobe and the team, many players aren’t feeling the same emotions that they should be. Having said this I believe that the Bulls must make some sort of move that will not necessarily get us a Kobe Bryant but someone down low to have an offensive presence. I don’t know about anyone else, but it is very frustrating to watch Ben Wallace mope around the floor on offense.
    Some sort of trade has to be made! We can’t continue to be surrounded by all these rumors. A trade will ease the stress on many of the players’ minds as to whether they are staying or going. Action is needed. The time is now.

  5. 5 Anonymous
    November 4, 2007 at 11:48 am

    The first few games of the season have indeed looked very, very bad. None of the players have looked like they have any energy or are into the game from start to finish. The one thing that’s painfully clear – and seems more evident than last season – is that they do need a low post scorer. I didn’t think it would be so bad.

    That said, they’ve started each of the last three season slowly. I’m not sure why they do, but I have confidence they’ll start to gel. However, just like last year, a slow start will hurt them in the playoff seeding. They need to get it going fast.

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