With Rose in the lineup, Deng was practically untouchable, despite his expiring deal, because of the value he provided to a championship contender.
Deng turns 29 in April and is in his 10th season with the Bulls. He has played more than 22,000 minutes for this team. As a free agent, he could get big bucks and possibly be a missing link to a championship for a contender.
The Bulls could re-sign Deng, and it would certainly make them better, but I don't believe he'd offer any kind of "hometown discount" and the luxury-tax-paying team would lose some flexibility to change the roster.
I hate to say the Bulls need to reconfigure the roster because they've had only one real shot at the playoffs in the last four seasons, and that was the first one under Tom Thibodeau.
Every player from that original team has improved since then, but Rose's injuries have kept the Bulls from seeing the true potential of this talented group.
But time waits for no man, even Thibs. The Bulls have to be proactive (not that I'm telling them something new) and examine the faults of their current team and figure out how to improve for next season.
Rose's knee injury is more of a time drag than some kind of death knell for his career. While you can't guarantee health, obviously, the Bulls need to go for it immediately next season. No sense in building for an uncertain future.
While Deng is the easy mark for a midseason trade, I don't think anyone is untouchable if the Bulls decide to reconfigure the team. But if you trade Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson, for instance, you do it only for a strong return. Because of his still-low salary, Jimmy Butler can be a factor in a multiplayer deal as well.
If so inclined, the Bulls could really target teams that have traded first-round draft picks, because they'll have a decent one this year, and if the Charlotte Bobcats keep up their surprising start, the Bulls would get their pick this year. According to the terms of the now-infamous Tyrus Thomas trade, Chicago would get the Bobcats' pick this year if it's not in the top 10. That pick isn't unprotected until 2016.
A once-promising season has turned into a logic puzzle for the Bulls.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.