The Bulls recently measured the trade market for Pau Gasol in discussions that have more often centered on Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, league sources tell Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher (video link). Chicago wants a talented young player in return, whether it’s a defensive-minded wing player or a stretch four, and to open playing time for Bobby Portis, Bucher adds.
Chicago has reportedly been determined to find an upgrade at the wing and believes that it needs more outside shooting, and the team is willing to part with some of its ample frontcourt depth to acquire the right player, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported recently. The players most often linked to such a move have been Gibson and Noah, and the revelation that the team is potentially shopping Gasol is a new twist. The Bulls have been mentioned in connection with Timberwolves shooting guard Kevin Martin, who is reportedly available, as well as Jamal Crawford of the Clippers, though neither player fits the mold of the talented young player or defensive-minded wing that Bucher noted the team was seeking in his report.
Noah, who’s averaging a career-low 4.3 points per game while struggling with shoulder issues, is making $13.4MM this year in the final season of his deal, and Gibson has an $8.5MM salary for this season, with $8.95MM owed to him for 2016/17. Gibson supposedly has a higher value on the trade market, as a Western Conference GM recently relayed to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, but the team would likely prefer to deal Noah, given the decline in his play and expiring contract. It’s doubtful Chicago would be able to extract much in the way of value for Noah, though Bucher indicates that a decent market for him exists.
As for Gasol, he possesses a player option worth $7,769,520 for 2016/17 and has said that he’s leaning toward opting out of his contract this summer. He did add that he would like to remain in Chicago beyond this season. “Yes, of course,” Gasol said about staying with the Bulls after 2015/16. “But when the time comes we’ll evaluate it. I’ll see how the season went. Where are the team’s interests, where are my interests, what options do I have? But most important is for me and the team to focus on what we have this season to make the best out of it and give ourselves a chance to win the title.”
The Bulls would have only Early Bird rights on Gasol if he does decide to opt out, meaning they’d have to use cap room if they wish to ink him to a starting salary on his next deal that’s more than 175% of his nearly $7.449MM salary for this season, a figure that would come to $13,035,330. The Bulls have more than $64.75MM in guaranteed salary against a projected $89MM cap, though some believe it could rise as high as $95MM next season. It’s not clear if the team is pessimistic that it will be able to retain Gasol, or if it understands that he is the player who would generate the best potential return in a trade.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.