Paxson insisted the deal with Cleveland wasn't a white flag trade, even if the Bulls made it with an eye toward the future.
The Bulls acquired draft pick picks along with scuffling center Andrew Bynum, who was waived before Tuesday's deadline. That meant they would not be on the hook for the remaining $6 million on the two-year, $24 million contract Bynum signed with the Cavaliers in July.
Paxson said the money the Bulls save in salaries and luxury tax will be "put back into this basketball team." The Bulls could have the flexibility to be active in free agency and bring in Spanish star Nikola Mirotic, whose rights they acquired in a 2011 draft-day trade — particularly if they amnesty Carlos Boozer.
"That's something you have to talk to (management) about that," Boozer said when asked about his future.
Paxson said no decision has been made on Boozer. He bristled at the idea that the Bulls were giving up on the season by parting with Deng, a favorite of coach Tom Thibodeau.
"I'm going to do my job," Thibodeau said. "These guys that I have are great guys and they've put a lot into this. And we've dealt with significant blows the last three years and they've responded to every challenge."
Paxson sees playoff potential with a roster that includes Noah, Boozer, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler along with veterans Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy Jr. And with the room to make some moves before next season not to mention the return of Rose, he insists the Bulls' future is far from dim.
With Chicago native Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins possibly headlining a strong draft class, there might be an opportunity to strike it rich. The Bulls did just that in 2008 when they grabbed Rose with the No. 1 pick after defying a 1.7 percent chance to win the draft lottery.
"I think you have to be careful about what you perceive will happen the rest of this year," Paxson said. "You just don't know. The reality is that we still have really good basketball players in that locker room down the hall and some very competitive guys. We also have a coach who prepares our team daily better than any coach in the NBA."
AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich in Washington and Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.