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Bulls' Front Office Deserves Credit for Luol Deng Trade

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Bulls' Front Office Deserves Credit for Luol Deng Trade
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Chicago Bulls GM Gar Forman.

COMMENTARY | The Chicago Bulls' front office has long been considered cheap, timid, and afraid to make moves by fans and journalists alike.

I'd argue that vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have done a pretty good job at taking gambles to improve the Bulls.

John Paxson made some underrated moves to better Chicago's roster since taking over for Jerry Krause, like moving the overpaid, underperforming Jalen Rose in 2003. The team got multiple first-rounders from the New York Knicks for Eddy Curry, who went on to have one good season before spiraling out of control.

After center Tyson Chandler received a huge contract, he regressed mightily and was traded to the Hornets. Ben Wallace was grossly overpaid by the Bulls in 2006, but when Wallace's decline became too much to bear, he was moved to Cleveland.

Paxson made a major mistake, one he'll never live down by drafting LaMarcus Aldridge and trading him to Portland for Tyrus Thomas on draft night in 2006. In my opinion, it's the one major blemish on Paxson's 10-year career as the Bulls' executive vice president, but, like always, Paxson cleans up his messes. Thomas was traded to Charlotte in exchange for two expiring contracts and a future first-round draft pick that could pay dividends for Chicago in the near future.

In that same draft, the Bulls picked Thabo Sefolosha, who never found his way in the Windy City. The Swiss import was traded to Oklahoma City for a draft pick that turned out to be Taj Gibson.

Chicago drafted forward James Johnson in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft with the 16th overall pick. Johnson never panned out and was shipped to Toronto in the following season. The pick acquired for Johnson allowed the Bulls to draft Real Madrid's Nikola Mirotic, arguably the best player in Europe.

No general manager is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes, but how you handle those mistakes speaks volumes of the person that you are.

Chicago Bulls fans are spoiled by the '90s era championship teams and anything less than a championship is a disappointment. I got news for you: All-Star players aren't easy to come by.

Fans have short attention spans and tend to go off of results instead of intent. The Bulls let their top scorer Ben Gordon walk for no compensation and traded a beloved player on their roster, Kirk Hinrich, to the Washington Wizards in an attempt to sign Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and/or LeBron James. Chicago swung for the fences in 2010 and their top three targets all signed with the same team -- they tried.

With the second major injury to Derrick Rose and the team muddled in mediocrity, the Bulls decided to reshuffle the deck and plan for the future. Chicago traded two-time All-Star and franchise-favorite Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers essentially for cap space and the potential to draft in the middle of a couple of upcoming drafts.

The Bulls love Luol Deng as a person and a player, but overpaying for him does not get the team closer to a seventh championship.

"I want to make it clear how difficult it was to do," Paxson said of trading Deng in a press conference Tuesday. "[Deng's] been a true gentleman and a wonderful player."

Often criticized for "falling in love" with his players, Paxson was emotional when discussing moving Deng. The reality is Paxson has traded most of the guys that's he's drafted in an effort to improve the team.

Carlos Boozer may be next on Chicago's chopping block. With one year remaining on his contract worth nearly $17 million, the Bulls may use the amnesty provision in the summer of 2014 to shed Boozer's contract from their salary cap in an effort to sign younger, more productive players.

"It's a decision that will be made, but it's not being made today. It will be made at some point. You can't do it now," Paxson said regarding using the amnesty provision.

All of these moves, including trading Deng, are being done to make the team better. With Deng and Boozer on the roster, the Bulls were good, but not great. Moving Deng had to be done. It was a good move and a gutsy move. Give the Bulls credit. Why not try to move some of your higher-paid salaries to add an impact player or two in the future? It's impossible to bring in new talent when almost half of your salary cap is going toward a couple of players.

Chicago never wanted to trade Deng, but it had to be done. The Bulls' last championship was 16 years ago. The organization and the fans are hungry for another championship. Fans should understand that the roster as currently constructed can't get it done, so it's imperative for Paxson and Forman to shake things up a bit.

Now Paxson and Forman face the tough task of putting impact players around Derrick Rose that can lead the Bulls to a championship within the next three years of Rose's contract, or the former league MVP may move elsewhere to pursue his dream of being an NBA champion.

"The onus is on us," Paxson said. "When you have financial flexibility, you have to use that in the right way. You have to spend money wisely and when you have draft picks, you have to make the right decisions."

"We are confident we are going to take these resources and put them back into our team."

I am, too.

Sherron Shabazz is a long-time Bulls follower and a season ticket holder for more than a decade. Sherron is in his fifth season covering the NBA for Examiner.com.

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