As we turn the calendar, the Chicago Bulls sit at a decent 26-19 and are the No. 3 seed in the East as of writing this. That looks good on paper.
Dig a little deeper, or actually watch a Bulls game, and you know this team is far from an NBA title contender. Thus, you would hope the Bulls use the trade deadline to improve the team for the second half (and preferably long term).
With recent injuries to Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls’ flexibility to deal on the frontline becomes a bit more of a tightrope act than a sure thing. They still want a wing scorer, and even though Mike Dunleavy, Jr. has yet to see the floor this season he’s still going to be 35 when he returns.
It’s evident—at least for this year—that the Bulls front office believes they can contend for a title behind a Rose-Butler backcourt duo. The jury is and will be out on that notion as long as Rose is still a Bull.
It also appears Pau Gasol won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, according to Marc Stein.
As for Pau Gasol … latest signals out of Chicago are that the Bulls want to RE-SIGN the free agent-to-be. As opposed to trading him
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 27, 2016
While recent history suggests the Bulls will be really boring as the trade deadline approaches, that doesn’t mean we have to be.
So we took to ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine (which is addicting, by the way) to punch in a few hypothetical deals we’d like to see the Bulls trigger at the trade deadline. Note, these are merely hypotheticals and nobody actually knows what the hell is going to happen.
But they fit the parameters of what all teams involved are looking for, and as is the beauty of the Trade Machine – these four trades would all work salary wise.
Plus, it’s fun. So loosen up and have some goddamn fun, because the actual trade deadline probably won’t be that fun for Bulls fans.
1. Brook Lopez & Omri Casspi to the Bulls, Taj Gibson & Mike Dunleavy to the Nets, Pau Gasol to the Kings
A three team deal is highly unlikely. Actually, it won’t happen. But it’s fun to tinker with if it’s within the realm of comprehension.
Here’s how this one works: The Bulls are looking for a championship and should think that ship has sailed with an aging Pau Gasol and virtually no rotational help because of injury.
The Sacramento Kings are a team on the rise behind DeMarcus Cousins, aka the best big man in the NBA. The only downside is their on-court “leadership” consists of Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay, which is to say it doesn’t exist at all. Pairing Gasol on the front line with Boogie and Willie Cauley-Stein makes a lot of sense as they push for a playoff spot.
As for the Nets? Well, they’re in full tank mode. That franchise is at the depths of hell and looking to ascend through the draft. The only problem is that Boston has all of their draft picks. What the Bulls can offer the Nets – along with a trio of solid role players – is the Kings’ unprotected first round pick. It gets the Nets back into a decent draft position, plus gives them help against the cap with guys like Koufos and MDJ.
I’m most intrigued by the fact that Brook Lopez as a Bull would be incredible. Now, I understand the Bulls getting both a wing scorer and one of the three best centers in basketball is a coup to end all coups. In a three-way deal, it’s unlikely.
So I did this.
2. Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, Mike Dunleavy to the Nets, Brook Lopez to the Bulls
Take out the Kings and you’re left with a straight up Bulls-Nets deal. Hollinger’s Analysis actually has this as a worse-off deal for Chicago, which doesn’t particularly make sense.
As I mentioned, Nets are in full tank mode so adding two old geezers like Pau and MDJ is logical. If the Bulls acquired Brook Lopez that would give them three players with max deals on the roster, which isn’t common. But Lopez is 27 and in the prime of his career.
Adding Brook Lopez to the Bulls would give them the type of flexibility in age and talent to finally move on from pipe dream of a Derrick Rose-Jimmy Butler duo.
Jimmy-Brook is so much more enticing.
3. Pau Gasol to the Celtics, Jae Crowder & Jared Sullinger to the Bulls
OK, let’s get a little closer to what’s most likely going to happen: The Bulls target a cap friendly wing player capable of scoring while not demolishing their post presence.
This proposed deal with Boston helps both teams. The young, budding Celtics get an experienced big man to anchor the inside while the Bulls get a versatile wing player in Jae Crowder – who just happens to be Jimmy Butler’s buddy from Marquette.
To open up minutes for Gasol, Boston would have to move one of their bigs. A guy like Jared Sullinger and his expiring contract is a worthy prospect that allows Chicago to eat up front court minutes, too.
4. Ryan Anderson to the Bulls, Taj Gibson to the Pelicans
This one is the most intriguing deal for me in terms of what the Bulls get in return. By trading Taj Gibson for Ryan Anderson straight up, you don’t sacrifice a body down low amidst the injuries they’ve sustained.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans are only three games out of the last playoff spot in the West but they’d have to pass Denver, Sacramento, and Utah to get there. And New Orleans likely won’t have much of a chance to resign Anderson this offseason, but can have Gibson in their frontcourt rotation next season.
For the Bulls, Ryan Anderson’s defensive inefficiencies come at less of a cost than Gibson’s offensive ones. And if he’s not a fit, you’re not committed to him after this season.
But Anderson undoubtedly stretches the floor from the four position as well as anybody in the league not named Kevin Love. And that’s what Fred Hoiberg needs.