This off-season was supposed to be a free agency period which would catapult the Chicago Bulls into title contenders once again. With the franchise having plenty of cap space to get one of the top free agents, they had an opportunity to land LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, among others. However, after James elected to return back to Cleveland and Anthony chose to stay in New York, Chicago appears to have run out of options for that big free agent signing. Instead, rumor has it that the Chicago Bulls are close to signing high risk veteran big man and former Lakers champion, Pau Gasol for their current starting power forward Carlos Boozer.
Four years ago the Chicago Bulls were in need of a right hand man to their star point guard Derrick Rose. After Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James all denied them in free agency, they elected to go for Boozer, a player who had many successful seasons with the Utah Jazz alongside point guard Deron Williams. While in Utah, Boozer averaged 19.5 ppg and 11.2 rpg. While Boozer was great in Utah, he never quite managed to receive the same level of appreciation in Chicago. The primary reason for that was the fact that the Bulls were a defensive-minded team. The power forward was an odd fit which led coach Tom Thibodeau to eventually bench him in the fourth quarter of many games. As time went on, Boozer became the victim of harsher and harsher criticism as his numbers dropped, and he essentially become a shadow of his former self. This came to a head during the 2013-2014 season where he only averaged 13.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg.
For years, it has been rumored that Boozer would be used as the Bulls’ amnesty exception. However, they have been hesitant to pull the trigger. Now, with Chicago finally facing the reality that the Boozer experiment has failed, they have realized that it is time to part ways with him. Instead of using the amnesty on him, they are debating doing a sign and trade deal with the Lakers for another aging power forward, Pau Gasol.
The Bulls need help on their squad, particularly on the offensive end. However, what they truly need is someone consistent. This rumored deal already looks like the Boozer mistake all over again, if not worse. Gasol has better averages than Boozer at 17.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg and 1.5 bpg, but on a team missing Kobe Bryant, he was not able to play consistent ball. Worse yet is the fact that Gasol is past his prime. Pau Gasol is 32 years old and is on the decline, making him a high risk for the Chicago Bulls. Juxtaposed to his age is the fact that the former champion also is quite injury prone, having only played 60 games this season and 49 the previous one. As such, bringing in Gasol could make it so Chicago has another potential all-star sidelined due to injuries along with the often-injured Derrick Rose.
Of further concern is the fact that even if Gasol was able to stay on the floor and stay consistent, they may not have him there for long. Chicago is in a position where if they add a few pieces, they can become a contender for many years. By adding Gasol, they shrink that time frame considerably. In the opinion of many, there is no need for another power forward or center on the Bulls. Chicago currently has this year’s defensive player of the year in Joakim Noah and a blossoming Taj Gibson, who if given the chance, could also become an all-star player. If Chicago goes through with this trade and bring in Gasol, Gibson will be relegated to the bench once again.
What the Bulls need is someone they can rely on. Chicago needs someone who is powerful offensively, while also being able to be a part of their identity — defense. Because of this, what they really need is a small forward or shooting guard who is capable of catapulting them to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Chicago has to be careful this offseason. It may be tempting to pull in a former all-star in Pau Gasol, but he is high-risk for the franchise. They need a player or two who will elevate the team and who can hang around for many years down the road. Gasol is a hail Mary for a team that should be more careful.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey