Maybe Pau Gasol isn’t the same player he was three years ago, but the Chicago Bulls got an excellent big man that might help them live up to their championship hopes, leaving offers from the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat on the table.
Gasol can’t sign until the Bulls make a move or two to open up some cap space for him. Carlos Boozer and his $16.8 million deal will be amnestied in the next few days if the Bulls can’t find a team to initiate a trade with for his final season. Considering there are so many teams with available cap space they have to fill, someone will probably pick up Boozer through the waivers before he becomes a free agent.
The Bulls, along with signing Gasol to give them quite the impressive big-man trio of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and their new arrival, are also planning on adding Nikola Mirotic. The 23-year old Spanish-Montenegrin forward who has been playing for Real Madrid in recent years is looking to bolt out of his contract with Real Madrid, meaning the Bulls need to buy him out, which will count against the cap. Mirotic is a stretch forward of sorts, which might be able to add more shooting to a team that’s been focused in that area this offseason, hence the draft selection of Doug McDermott.
Gasol leaving the Lakers means only Kobe Bryant remains from the team that won the championship in 2010, completing a repeat. Gasol spent just over six season with the Lakers after being traded there from the Grizzlies, making three consecutive NBA finals before slowly declining along with the team. His numbers last season returned to normal level: 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds.
However, things weren’t very happy for Gasol. Not just the injuries of the last couple of seasons, but playing under Mike D’Antoni. The two clearly didn’t get along ,and seemed to do more talking with each other through jab trading in the media instead of actually conversing with each other during team practices or games. The system also didn’t really fit with his style, and it looks like the Bulls are a much better fit in more than one way.
So are the Bulls title contenders? It all depends on the health of Derrick Rose. Tom Thibodeau can make something out of nothing, and he has more than that to work with. The defense will be fine, and the Bulls suddenly have two of the most intelligent big man in the league playing together. If Rose doesn’t go down again with an injury that makes him miss an entire season and brings another huge question mark on what’s left of his career, the addition of Gasol will make a tremor through the East and propel the Bulls to a whole new level.