The Chicago Bulls appear to be a team in transition.
Last season was Chicago’s worst in seven years, as the Bulls posted a 42-40 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Bulls began their offseason by trading former star point guard Derrick Rose, and they are expected to lose both of their veteran big men free agents, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, as well.
Joe Crowley of the Chicago Sun Times reported recently that Noah and Bill Duffy, his agent, are working through a priority list as they search for Noah’s next team. Crowley wrote that Noah’s priorities are, in order, a winning team, a chance to start and finish games and a franchise that will support his foundation — Noah’s Arc.
Crowley added that the Bulls are apparently out of the running for Noah. The New York Knicks, Washington Wizards, and Minnesota Timberwolves are considered to be the leaders for Noah’s services.
Noah is a New York native and with Rose — a good friend and long-time teammate — now in New York, the Knicks are the most likely destination for the six-foot-11 center. Noah played only 29 games for the Bulls last season and averaged 4.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.6 steals, and 1.0 blocks in 22 minutes per game. He shot 38.3 percent from the field and 48.9 percent from the charity stripe.
“Oh, I want him, he knows that,” Rose said of Noah. “I think his family knows that. I think everyone knows that. Even [Thursday] night I was talking to him about it and it’s the same way. He’s in a position where he got injured twice last year. It was his contract year and he’s got to figure what he wants to do, so I can’t get mad with the decision he will make soon or whenever he makes it. He knows that I would want to play with him.”
Gasol, 36, had a very good season last year but has to make a decision whether to accept or decline his $7.7 million player option today. He will likely decline his option as he doesn’t want to go through a rebuild. San Antonio and maybe New York are potential landing spots for Gasol.
Now there are reports that the Bulls are making Taj Gibson available for trades, according to Pro Basketball Talk.
“To add some further clouds to the Bulls frontcourt rotation, a league source said that the Bulls have been talking to several teams about the possibility of moving Taj Gibson. The power forward is in the final year of his contract, scheduled to make $8.9 million.”
Gibson, who has spent all seven years of his career in Chicago, is entering his final season of his contract worth $8.9 million. The 31-year-old averaged 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 52.8 percent from beyond the field. He produced seven double-doubles, which was his lowest amount in three years.
Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore are also unrestricted free agents.
The Bulls will lean on Jimmy Butler heavily to lead this rebuild. Butler is coming off his best season of his career, posting 10 double-doubles along with two triple-doubles. He averaged 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists.
Butler will be joined in the backcourt by Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, Spencer Dinwiddie, Mike Dunleavy, Doug McDermott, Tony Snell, and 2016 first-round draft choice Denzel Valentine. Without Gibson, Chicago’s frontcourt would consist of Cristiano Felicio, Nikola Mirotic, Robin Lopez, and Bobby Portis.
Second round draft choice Paul Zipser — the No. 48 overall pick — is also expected to join the team this year, per Jonathan Givony of Draft Express. The six-foot-eight German wing has one more year left on his contract, however, his buyout is only $600,000.
Paul Zipser's buyout is only 600k. Has one more year left on his deal in Germany. Won't be any obstacles to Chicago bringing him over.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 24, 2016
Zipser averaged 7.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.6 steals in 18.1 minutes for Bayern Munich in 2015-16. He is athletic and has the ability to score off the dribble. Zipser is also a good three-point shooter and solid defender.
Chicago has approximately $24 million in cap space and is not expected to go after any of the big-name free agents. That doesn’t mean they won’t be active, as Kendall Gill of CSN Chicago believes Brandon Jennings would be a good fit in Chi-town. Jennings averaged 6.9 points and 3.5 assists this season in 48 games with the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic.
Sean Devaney of the Sporting News also believes that Evan Turner, a Chicago native, also could land with the Bulls. Boston would like to re-sign the 27-year-old, though the Knicks are also expected to be in the running for his services.
Other possible targets for the Bulls are Arron Afflalo, Kent Bazemore, Eric Gordon, Courtney Lee, and Marvin Williams.
[Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP Images]