The Bulls and Pau Gasol

ESPN’s Marc Stein writes:

The Chicago Bulls are exploring avenues to acquire Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol before Thursday’s trade deadline, according to sources close to the situation.

The Bulls have long hoped to wedge themselves into the trade running for Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard, but sources told ESPN.com that Howard’s well-chronicled lack of interest in a trade to Chicago has prompted the Bulls to switch their focus to Gasol in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.

 Sources say that the Lakers, however, have limited interest in the players Chicago would be offering, starting with Bulls forward Carlos Boozer.

So the Bulls would have to recruit at least one more team to the discussions to have any shot at Gasol, sources said, with the Lakers known to be insistent on getting back at least one certifiable star if they consent to trade the Spaniard.

To me, this is a lot of hubub about nothing. In other words, it’s almost certainly not going to happen.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes:

The talks, first reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, were driven at least in part by Arn Tellem, the shared agent of Gasol and Derrick Rose. Tellem has had a longstanding strong relationship with Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

Sending Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson to the Lakers would satisfy trade provisions under the collective bargaining agreement.

However, the Lakers, who are seeking an upgrade at point guard, have zero interest in adding the remaining three years and $47.1 million remaining on Boozer’s contract. A habitual luxury tax team, they are wary of the more prohibitive penalties under the new collective bargaining agreement, which toughen in 2013-14.

Thus, a third team would need to be engaged and sources said the Bulls have not found one.

Gasol has two years and $38.3 million left on his deal. However, his contract carries a 15 percent trade kicker. That means he would make close to $22 million next season if he’s traded. And the Bulls have luxury tax concerns of their own when Rose’s five-year, $95 million extension kicks in next season.

The Bulls own expiring contracts in Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik, as well as future assets such as the Bobcats’ first-round pick obtained in the Tyrus Thomas trade and the draft rights to international phenom Nikola Mirotic.

However, the Lakers are seeking at least one bona fide star on top of draft picks to move Gasol, so cap relief alone likely wouldn’t finalize the deal.

The Los Angeles Times reported the Lakers asked the Bulls for Joakim Noah, an unknown player and two first-round picks in return for Gasol.

So to sum up:

The Bulls are willing to trade the Lakers Boozer and Watson, but the Lakers don’t want that deal. Watson isn’t L.A.’s idea of an answer at point guard, and Boozer’s contract – worth between $15 and $17 million per year over the next three seasons — is like explosive toxic waste covered in mutant grizzly bears. Nobody wants to touch it.

Sure, the deal could work if a third team jumped in and was willing to take Boozer and Watson while providing the Lakers a significant upgrade at the point guard position. That’s unlikely to happen.

It’s just as unlikely that the Bulls would be willing to part with Noah, the unknown player (Omer or Taj?) and the two draft picks. Mostly because (in my opinion) the Bulls aren’t going to give up Joakim. In that scenario, they would probably expect Gasol to play center. Unfortunately, Gasol is at his best when playing power forward and everybody knows that. And, anyway, Jo is too important to this team’s chemistry and defense.

Interestingly enough, I was checking stats. Gasol (31 years, 252 days, 773 games played) is averaging 16.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and has a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.5. Boozer (30 years, 115 days, 613 games played) is giving the Bulls 15.6 PPG and 8.1 RPG while shooting 53.0 percent with a PER of 19.5. Pau’s Win Shares Per 48 Minutes is .179 while Boozer’s is .180.

There are obviously skill sets and intangibles to consider…but I’m not sure Gasol is such an amazing upgrade over Boozer (and the other assets being offered) that the Bulls should be willing to break the bank for him.

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