The Fred Hoiberg era has gotten off to a rocky start in Chicago, to the point that the Bulls are now considering trade options for three frontcourt mainstays: Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Chicago would like a wing in exchange for one or more of the big men.
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) December 24, 2015
It makes sense, given Hoiberg’s preference to play an uptempo, spaced game, that Chicago would want to move a couple of players who can slow things down on the floor and are part of a roster logjam as well.
As currently constituted, Chicago has up to six rotation-level big men (Noah, Gasol, Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis and possibly Doug McDermott, though he’s spent all season at the 3). The problem is, there are only 96 frontcourt minutes to go around, and none of these guys seem to fit all that well together.
Are there teams out there who may be in the market for big men and can offer the wing Chicago covets in return? Let’s take a look.
Various iterations of this deal are floating around the internet already, with most of them including Zach Randolph in some capacity. Those deals simply don’t make sense, given Chicago’s desire to downsize and speed up a bit.
Jeff Green, inconsistent as he is, better fits what Chicago’s looking for. He’s an immediate upgrade over Snell, who’s started the majority of the Bulls’ games at the 3 and is rocking a PER of six.
Green is a weapon in transition, who’s shown flashes of floor-spacing potential (just 33.9 percent from deep for his career, but he has had two separate seasons over 38 percent).
Plus, he can easily slide over to the 4 in small-ball lineups (53 percent of his career minutes have come there, according to Basketball-Reference).
For Memphis, the allure is pretty simple. Pairing Pau with his brother Marc Gasol is likely to be an instant chemistry boon and would give the Grizzlies one of the most imposing frontcourts in the NBA. Memphis is also trying to speed up of late, but the Gasols are good enough passers and shooters to continue in that direction even when they share the floor.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
As soon as the New Orleans Pelicans read the writing on the wall, they may become sellers this trade season. Their slow start and the play of Ben Simmons (who’s just over an hour’s drive away at LSU), has to have the front office, at least, toying with the notion of tanking.
If they do go down that road, everyone but Anthony Davis could be available, and acquiring Joakim Noah’s expiring contract for a couple months is a great way to shed financial responsibility. They may even be willing to buy him out so he can sign with a contender in time for the playoffs.
For Chicago’s end, Evans may not fit the bill for shooting (career 28.2 percent three-point shooter), but he’s hitting 40 percent of his threes this season in limited minutes and could take a lot of pressure off the underwhelming Derrick Rose in a playmaking capacity.
Utah’s lack of depth inside has been exposed since Rudy Gobert went down with an MCL sprain at the beginning of December. The Jazz have been filling in his minutes with a combination of Trey Lyles, Trevor Booker and Jeff Withey and are now 4-9 when Gobert doesn’t play.
Gibson could come in and play heavy minutes until Gobert returns and fill the third big role afterward. He hasn’t been quite as effective under Hoiberg but is still a solid defender and an upgrade over any of Utah’s current options for those minutes.
Burks, meanwhile, can give the Bulls some of the creativity off the dribble they used to get from Derrick Rose. He’s not the playmaker Rose is, but his slashing ability could still collapse defenses and open up the perimeter a bit more for Butler, McDermott or other shooters.
Burks can space the floor a bit himself as well. He’s shooting 37.8 percent from three this season and 36 percent for his career.
Utah may need extra convincing to let him go, though. At 24, he still fits Utah’s youth movement and is on a contract (four years, $41 million) that will be very manageable under the new salary cap. A draft pick from the Bulls or an additional young player might have to be thrown in to seal the deal.
Andy Bailey is on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.