The first half of the year has been nothing short of a disappointment with the squad on the brink of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Injuries have a lot to do with it, although things aren't getting any better with Joakim Noah out for the year and Jimmy Butler expected to miss three to four weeks with a knee injury.
Not only have these injury issues caused problems on the court, but they have also limited the front office when it comes to trade possibilities.
ESPN.com's Zach Lowe explained how Chicago is unlikely to deal obvious trade candidates like Noah and Mike Dunleavy due to various ailments, while Pau Gasol won't provide adequate value. However, Lowe did add another possibility for the trade deadline.
"The Bulls may also want quality rotation guys instead of just future assets; Chicago and Toronto had initial discussions on a Taj Gibson-Patrick Patterson swap that would give Chicago yet another stretch power forward and trim its tax bill, but those discussions appear to have led nowhere so far," Lowe wrote.
Even if talks don't pick up and this deal is dead, it's clear the Bulls are willing to make a deal for the 30-year-old forward.
Chicago is stuck in the middle for much of its roster between veterans with no value and young players who are too good to pass up. No one is likely going to take on Derrick Rose's contract, but the Bulls would be crazy to give up Butler or even Bobby Portis. However, Gibson "has strong value around the league," per Bobby Marks of The Vertical.
Although the forward has seen his scoring continue to drop since 2013-14, down to just eight points per game this year, he still contributes in other ways. His 7.2 rebounds per game are the most since his rookie season, and he is also passing better than he ever has to help the offense.
Meanwhile, Gibson's best attribute has always been his defense both on the ball and as a rim protector, averaging more than one blocked shot per game in every year of his career. The Minnesota Timberwolves' Zach LaVine recently learned that no amount of athleticism can beat good positioning:
There also shouldn't be any concern about a foot injury after K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune noted Gibson was able to practice this week, implying he should be ready to return:
Taj Gibson on the floor, getting up shots as Bulls' practice ends.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 17, 2016
Although Gibson won't become a star, he certainly can put a contending team over the top with his addition to the rotation. The question at this point is whether the Bulls can find a suitable deal to make this type of trade happen.
Who is most likely to be traded at the deadline?
Sean Deveney of Sporting News reported earlier in the year that the Bulls "have been reluctant to take offers for Gibson too seriously in the last two years," even though the organization is aware the haul could be large.
More recently, Marc Stein of ESPN.com explained how the injuries to Noah and Nikola Mirotic make trading Gibson less likely, since there is no logjam preventing Portis from seeing the floor. Of course, this was when it appeared a turnaround was possible—something that looks bleaker by the day. Holding on to a quality rotational player no longer makes a lot of sense if it just means clinging to a low playoff seed.
Chicago has to worry about the future, and the best way to improve is dealing off assets, whether that means Gasol, Gibson or anyone else. Interestingly, Marks even discussed the possibility of trading Rose in a package for Rudy Gay.
Head coach Fred Hoiberg is out of the loop but remains focused on helping the team this season, per Cody Westerlund of CBSChicago.com:
I know (executives John Paxson and Gar Forman) are up doing their job. They’re calling all around the league, just like teams do this time of year. We’ll see what happens. This is the time where things get serious, these final 48 hours leading into the deadline. We’ll see what happens. Our big thing is getting our team right, getting healthy and hopefully getting on a run here down the stretch.
While this is positive thinking, it doesn't appear the Bulls do anything that will help the 2015-16 squad. At best, the organization will stay put before scratching and clawing to an early exit in the playoffs.
The reality is this would be the worst thing for an organization hoping to get back into contention in the near future.
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