Pursued by teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, the former Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted that he was headed to Chi-Town. The move means Chicago will say goodbye to Carlos Boozer, as he’ll more than likely be waived via the amnesty provision.
Of course, the Bulls would've been a more dangerous force if they had signed free agent Carmelo Anthony instead. Could you imagine his elite scoring added to a suffocating, Tom Thibodeau-coached defense?
However, fans shouldn’t be too depressed, as Gasol is undoubtedly a consolation prize. While he won’t average nearly 30 points a night like ‘Melo, he’s just what the Bulls need to go from a first-round-exiting playoff team to the NBA’s 2015 champion.
What Does He Bring to the Lineup?
It’s no secret that the Bulls struggled to score last season. Okay, using the word “struggle” is actually an understatement. The Derrick Rose and Luol Deng-less squad finished with a forgettable 93.7 points per game, even worse than the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz.
Gasol’s addition will surely help. The four-time All-Star may be the Bulls’ best low-post scoring threat since the days of Elton Brand.
He’s coming off a year in which he averaged 17.4 points per contest, serving as one of the few bright spots for the 27-55 Lakers. He simply destroys defenses in the paint and can go out and hit the mid-range jumper.
Gasol is also a superb passer, dishing out a very respectable 3.3 assists per game for his career. He and Joakim Noah will instantly form one of the best passing big-men duos in all of basketball.
Several members of the Bulls should benefit from Gasol’s arrival, including rookie Doug McDermott (via Sam Smith of Bulls.com).
"All my buddies were texting me, said they heard Pau was a teammate, "said McDermott. "I didn’t know that. They’re doing a great job with free agents and I’m excited to be a part of that. It’s huge for everyone. He’s a seven-footer who can pass the ball. A guy like that can find me and that will help me."
Gasol will be able to find players like McDermott, Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell for open shots, improving Chicago's offense immensely.
Most importantly, Gasol possesses NBA championship experience. Teamed up with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant and coached by the great Phil Jackson, he helped the Lakers capture back-to-back titles back in 2009 and 2010.
Can He Stay Healthy?
Perhaps injuries are the main reason the Bulls haven’t won a title during the Rose/Thibodeau era. Due to tearing his ACL and meniscus, Rose has played just 49 games over the past three seasons. And although he was healthy last year, Noah has battled injuries in the past as well.
Unfortunately, Gasol’s career hasn’t been exactly injury-free, either. An upper respiratory infection, a hurt groin and vertigo sidelined him for 22 games during the 2013-14 campaign. The previous year, he missed 33 contests due to tendonitis in both knees, a concussion and a torn plantar fascia.
Apparently, though, he isn't hurting these days, as he wrote an entry on his personal website.
“I feel great. My vertigo problems are finally over. I’m not physically frustrated or mentally tired. I can’t remember the last vacation when I was feeling this good.”
If the Bulls want to make a deep playoff run, Gasol will need to avoid the injured list as much as possible.
Do the Bulls Have Enough Pieces?
It was disappointing that the Bulls couldn’t manage to get Anthony. Yet, this offseason has proven to be an exciting one for the team thus far. Not only did they grab Gasol, Nikola Mirotic is finally coming over from Europe, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski:
Nikola Mirotic—considered the best player in European basketball—has reached agreement on a three-year, $17 million contract with the Chicago Bulls, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Mirotic, a 6-foot-10 forward, was the Spanish League MVP in the 2013 season and brings a well-regarded offensive game to Chicago. He shot 46 percent from 3-point range for Real Madrid in the 2013-14 season, establishing himself as one of the finest jump-shooting power forwards in the world.
In addition, the return of Rose is sort of like a huge free-agent signing as well. If he can have a healthy campaign and show flashes of the megastar that was named the league’s 2011 MVP, the Bulls will be tough to beat. It’s possible he could regain his status as one of the game’s top point guards.
And we can’t forget about Noah, the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year, who played a major role in the team’s surprising 48-win season.
Barring a trade, Thibodeau will likely start Rose, Jimmy Butler, Dunleavy, Gasol and Noah. The bench should consist of Kirk Hinrich, Snell, McDermott, Mirotic and “super-sub” Taj Gibson.
While the likes of Rose, Gasol, McDermott and Mirotic are responsible for providing scoring, Noah, Butler and Gibson are capable of playing lockdown D each and every night.
Chicago is much deeper that last year’s version and has a realistic chance of reaching the NBA Finals, especially with LeBron James no longer with the Miami Heat.
With Gasol's signing, can the Bulls take the next step and take down a team like the Spurs or Thunder in The Finals? Yep, you better believe it.