The regular season hasn’t even started yet, but the rumor mill already has. The latest rumor, produced by Sheridan Hoops’ Chris Sheridan, is a deal that would send Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls in a multiple team trade that would end up in the Bulls also ridding themselves of the contract of Carlos Boozer. Just from my own bit of research, I have seen that some fans of the Bulls are excited about the possibility of this trade, and for those fans, I urge you to tame your expectations and take a realistic look at this trade.
For one, I’m just going to come out right now and say that it definitely is not going to happen, no matter how much sense it makes in theory. For the Lakers, they would be getting rid of a big contract, and presumably getting draft picks back, and for the Bulls, they would get rid of Boozer, and replace him with a solid big man in Gasol, who just so happens to be an expiring contract. The thought of this got people’s wheels turning, and they picture a scenario where the Bulls could let Gasol walk following the season, and then they’d be able to afford to bring back Luol Deng, as well as a big-money free agent.
Well, that last part may still happen, but not the way that it is drawn up there. The reason that this trade will not happen is solely because there is no team in the NBA that would take on Boozer’s bloated contract. He proved to actually hurt the team last year, and given the fact that team’s have access to advanced statistics like that, they will certainly not be too fond of the idea of bringing him in. Yes, I know seemingly unmovable contracts like Andrea Bargnani’s have been shipped off, but given that the Nets and Knicks appear to be tapped out, there’s really no where else in the league for the Bulls and Lakers to turn.
But say hypothetically, in some one-in-a-million scenario, the Bulls and Lakers actually do find a willing third-party, the Bulls should still choose not to pull the trigger on this deal. Don’t get me wrong, I think Gasol is a great player, and I personally think he’ll return to his star-level of play this year, but he would not be a fit with the Bulls at all with the way that they are currently assembled.
Joakim Noah is firmly entrenched at the center position, so that would mean Gasol would have to play power forward, which is really just bad news. He is a completely different player when he’s at power forward as compared to center, and that’s not meant in a good way. Last season (according to 82games.com), he posted a very average PER of 15.4 when playing power forward, but that number jumped all the way up to 22.0 when he moved to center. That’s a jump from “pretty good” to “bonafide All-Star” according to John Hollinger’s explanation of PER.
It wasn’t just on the offensive end where his production was taking a hit, either, as his defense struggled to. At power forward, opponents registered a PER of 17.2 against him (Solid 2nd option, according to Hollinger’s explanation). Compare that to the 14.4 number that they posted while he was at center, and you’re seeing just how big of a shift it is for him to play power forward.
I’m not trying to argue that Carlos Boozer is a better player than Pau Gasol (he isn’t), but what I am saying is that Boozer is actually a better fit on this Bulls team. If the Bulls were in need of a center, then yes, by all means they should go after Gasol, but that’s not the case. The better plan of action for the team would be to play out this season with the roster the way that it is, and then after the year they can use the Amnesty on Boozer.
With that option, the team would not have to give up any valuable assets like draft picks, or international star Nikola Mirotic, yet they would still have the cap space to bring back Deng and bring in a big-name free agent. With that option in play, there’s no reason they should even think about trading for Pau Gasol.
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