Pau Gasol deserves to compete for a championship this season. Averaging 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, the 35 year-old Spaniard is having another great year. He is once again an All-Star and has been a main source of consistence in Chicago. Yet there is one big problem:
The Bulls will not be competing for a championship this season.
With every game that passes, Chicago looks more and more like they are destined for a first round exit, if they can even hang on to their playoff spot. Injuries and frustrating play have completely derailed their season. Losers of six of their past seven, Chicago is 27-25 at the All-Star break, way below expectations prior to the season. The injury list is currently long: Joakim Noah is out for the year, Nikola Mirotic recently got stitches for his appendectomy with no timetable for a return, and Jimmy Butler is out for an additional three-four weeks with a knee injury. Within the coming weeks, Chicago will likely be under .500.
Many are calling to break up the core. Should the Bulls trade Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol to start fresh? While I think the first two should stay in Chicago, they should trade Pau Gasol. At 35, he isn’t going to be part of their future and they should send him to a contender while he has value. Who will be willing to take on the veteran?
There are three teams that Chicago could trade Pau Gasol to: Toronto, Boston and Oklahoma City. All three are contenders in their conference and could use a player as versatile as Gasol. Toronto is a serious threat to Cleveland, and adding the All-Star could make a big difference. Toronto has multiple first round picks over the next year to dangle, as well as interesting youth players like Lucas Nogueira or Delon Wright. Toronto is currently guard-heavy in terms of scoring, so adding 17.0 points per game to the front court would be a major upgrade.
Boston could also make a trade. They are a very good team right now, and adding Gasol could move them from contenders to serious contenders. Boston has plenty of assets from draft picks to young talent. Since Chicago has Rose and Butler, they will likely seek a front court player. Kelly Olynyk would be a nice fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, but Tyler Zeller or even Jared Sullinger could be offered with possible draft picks as well.
Lastly, Oklahoma City is also a possible trade partner. They could send players like Mitch McGary, Kyle Singler or possibly even Steven Adams in exchange for Gasol. Ibaka and Gasol would be a nice pairing and this trade would put lots of pressure on both Golden State and San Antonio.
Chicago could use an influx of young talent to build around, and getting rid of Gasol would make sense for a struggling team. They should capitalize on his skill and team-friendly contract right now instead of holding onto him. Unless they suddenly turn their play around after the All-Star game, this team is not good enough to make a playoff run and needs to make a change.