What should the Chicago Bulls do with Luol Deng?

It's the biggest non-Derrick Rose question that continues to hover over this franchise. Yahoo! Sports recently reported that Deng's representatives had started talking to the Bulls about a possible extension, and since that time it seems as if Deng's future in Chicago has divided the team's fan base more than any other non-Rose topic. There are three choices as it pertains to how fans feel regarding Deng.

1) Keep him at any cost and re-sign him.
2) Trade him and get back whatever you can.
3) Let him play out his contract and see what happens.

It's a tricky situation for the organization given that Deng is a two-time All-Star and one of the most respected players in the locker room. He is one of Tom Thibodeau's favorite players and fits nicely into Thibodeau's schemes on both ends of the floor. Deng has done everything for the Bulls since Thibodeau became the coach three years ago and become a league leader in minutes playing almost 40 every night. Bulls GM Gar Forman has repeatedly talked about how important Deng is to the core of the Bulls but he has not come out publicly and stated that the Bulls would do everything in their power to bring Deng back and keep him as a core piece of the team. Forman, like the rest of the fan base, wants to know what kind of price range Deng is looking for in his new deal.

The reality is that Deng is likely going to want something close to what he is scheduled to make this season -- which is over $14 million.
Unless Deng is willing to take a significant hometown discount, and there's been no indication about that to this point, I don't think there's any question as to what the Bulls should do -- either trade him or let him go next summer.

There is a feeling among many within the organization that this team, the way it's currently constructed, still has a chance to win a championship next season. The thinking is that since Deng doesn't nearly have as much trade value as he had in previous years, why not just give it one more run and see what can happen with a core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Deng?

The issue becomes much more complicated if the Bulls don't win, though. Now what?

Given the Bulls' salary cap situation, it's a near certainty they will amnesty the final year of Carlos Boozer's deal worth nearly $17 million. With Deng's $14 million coming off the books along with Kirk Hinrich's $4 million, the Bulls are expected to have somewhere in the neighborhood of $16-17 million depending on how the final numbers shake out now that Mike Dunleavy is in the fold for the next couple seasons at $3 million a year.

So the real question for the Bulls becomes, if a team with Deng as a focal point still isn't good enough, is it worth it to bring him back for three or four years and give up a huge chunk of the cap space you've spent several years to build?

The answer, despite all the good things Deng has done in Chicago, should be no.

Jimmy Butler took solid steps in his progression last season and could easily shift into playing the small forward spot like Deng. Is he a future All-Star? It's too early to tell at this point, but the drop off between Butler and Deng would not be steep -- plus the fact that Butler is still on a rookie deal, and five years younger, would allow the Bulls to go after a scoring two-guard to pair with Rose.