The Chicago Bulls' 2015-16 season has been a bit of a disappointment, and injury issues could make things even worse. This could lead to some major changes before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
While the squad remains in contention for a playoff spot, sitting at 27-25 at the NBA All-Star break while 11 games out of first place and just one ahead of ninth place is not what fans expected. Not only is Joakim Noah out for the year because of a shoulder injury and Derrick Rose still less than 100 percent, but now the team has to deal with a Jimmy Butler knee injury that will keep him out another two to three weeks.
The team certainly needs help in order to remain in contention, although at this point, it might make more sense for the organization to trade away its assets to prepare for the future.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier in the year Chicago had taken calls on Noah, Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol, although only one of this group is likely to continue drawing interest on the open market. Noah is hurt, and Gibson is struggling. But Gasol just went to his sixth career All-Star Game.
ESPN.com's Nick Friedell argued that dealing the frontcourt star shouldn't be a tough decision as the squad continues to struggle:
In the short term, that means that Pau Gasol should be dealt by next week. Gasol is too talented an offensive player to continue languishing on a roster that does not have enough to win a title. Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson should get the best return they can for the 35-year-old big man.
The logic is that at best, the current team can possibly win a series in the playoffs, but that would be it. Considering the history of the franchise, this shouldn't be a goal. Instead, any trade would help improve the chances of contention in the future.
Considering Gasol is likely to opt out of his current contract at the end of the season, per Bobby Marks of The Vertical, a trade would allow the Bulls to get something this year instead of nothing next year.
On the other hand, it isn't guaranteed Gasol is on his way out of Chicago. Even if he does become a free agent, the Bulls are reportedly willing to give the star a large contract this offseason, as ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst told Marc Silverman of ESPN Radio:
ICYMI: @WindhorstESPN told us re-signing Pau is a #Bulls priority. And to a contract that could be worth worth 20mil a yr. He floored me.2/10/2016, 9:30:29 PM
It's unclear if the market would dictate that level of contract for the veteran player, but it appears the Bulls aren't going to move too quickly to get rid of him. Meanwhile, the rest of the Bulls also want to make sure Gasol sticks around a little longer.
At the All-Star Game, Butler explained why he doesn't want Gasol traded despite rumors, per Sam Smith of the Bulls' official website:
Sam Smith @SamSmithHoops
Butler on Gasol rumors: "I love Pau. Pau gives me a lot of easy baskets. A lot now that I think about it. I like playing with Pau."2/12/2016, 11:42:07 PM
Although the Spanish big man isn't the flashiest player, it's hard to find a steadier option in the post.
Gasol is currently averaging 17 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, which would be the fifth time in his career he averaged a double-double. Even at 35 years old, he remains one of the top low-post scorers in basketball and clearly helps everyone on the floor. Then again, this is exactly what makes him so valuable to other teams in the trade market.
Butler isn't going anywhere, and it's unlikely the Bulls are considering younger players like Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic (ages 24 and 25, respectively) for trades, either. With Rose and Gibson unlikely to provide as much value as they deserve, the best option to deal is Gasol. Now all it takes is the team willing to sell off its best asset.
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