The Chicago Bulls are open to dealing big man Pau Gasol, though how interested they are in doing so is unclear. One report, from Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, has them "actively shopping" Gasol. ESPN's Brian Windhorst is reporting that the Bulls have "taken some calls" on Gasol and "aren't actively shopping" him. Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago is reporting similar things.
Semantics aside, it seems clear that Gasol is on the trade block, even if he may not want to be. The Bulls have discussed several deals involving the 35-year-old, but he "has strongly resisted the idea of a trade that would turn him into a two-month rental" and would prefer to try to sign a contract extension in Chicago, according to Wojnarowski. That desire to stay with the Bulls could complicate talks for teams trying to get a big two months from the veteran.
While Gasol is no longer in his prime, he's still the Bulls' second-leading scorer at 17 points per game, and also pulling down just under 11 rebounds per night. He is expected to decline his $7.4 million player option for next year, which will make him free agent this offseason. Re-signing him could come at a heavy cost.
The Bulls are currently 27-25 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They've dropped four games in a row and have yet to gel under new head coach Fred Hoiberg.
Why trading Gasol makes sense for the Bulls
The simplest reason is that if they don't plan on re-signing him in the offseason, they're better off trading him now and getting some assets in return. Just last week, both Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN were reporting that the Bulls were interested in bringing Gasol back next season. But perhaps that thinking has changed during Chicago's recent swoon.
It would be understandable if it had. For one, it's hard to envision the Bulls making any sort of postseason run. Nothing has gone right for the team this season. Derrick Rose looks like a shell of his former self, Joakim Noah is out for the year and Nikola Mirotic could miss several more weeks with an illness. The offense hasn't picked up under Hoiberg, as only four teams are scoring fewer points than 100 possessions than Chicago. The defense, no longer led by Tom Thibodeau, has dropped out of the top 10.
Taking all that into consideration, it's difficult to come up with reasons for the Bulls to keep Gasol around. That he'd likely receive $20-million-a-year offers this summer, which would essentially wipe out all of the Bulls' cap space, just makes it more likely he's on another team next October. The Bulls are better off using that space to target someone like Al Horford, Nicolus Batum or even Dwight Howard.
That's not to say there's no downside to dealing Gasol. He remains the team's top post scorer and rebounder and statistically rates as one of the league's top defenders. But there are many who disagree with those defensive numbers and still see a slow-footed big man who can't guard in space or protect the rim.
As much as he brings to the table on offense, it's clearly not enough to prop up the team's overall output and help the Bulls take down the Cleveland Cavaliers or even the Toronto Raptors. Chicago would be better off using Gasol as a chip to upgrade its roster for both the present and the future.
Why trading Gasol doesn't makes sense for the Bulls
Because he's still one of their best players and there's no reason for any team as talented as Chicago to surrender, given how open the path to the Eastern Conference Finals seems to be. The Bulls might be in seventh place, but they're also just 3.5 games behind the third-place Boston Celtics. A single win streak could be all the Chicago needs in order to get home court advantage in the first round. From there, you never know. No one would pick them in a series against the Cavaliers, but all it takes is one injury to change everything. They have defeated the Cavaliers both times they've played this season.
The Bulls would also have to look at the list of players set to hit free agency and see if there's anyone they'd really prefer over Gasol. Horford is intriguing, but there will be lots of teams in on him. Other than him, there might not be a big man who fits better with Chicago than Gasol.
If that's the case, the Bulls would be better off keeping Gasol now, making whatever kind of run they can and then inking him to a shorter deal in the offseason. It appears the big man would prefer that outcome. This would all also make Hoiberg's job much easier. Continuity also does.
Likelihood of Gasol getting traded (7/10)
The Bulls might not be "actively shopping" him, but it's clear that Gasol is on the table. That he's the kind of player that could smoothly gel with any team -- assuming there's no concern about his desire to stay in Chicago -- means he'll likely garner some interest around the league, which could land the Bulls some good offers. It's hard to seem them turning one down.
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