The Bulls have more than likely lost Joakim Noah for the rest of the season due to a separated shoulder. He’s been ruled out for four to six months.
Yahoo! Sports recently reported that the Bulls were taking trade calls for Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson in hopes of adding another wing, but Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported that the Bulls have also been “quietly” testing the trade market for Pau Gasol, even before Noah’s latest injury.
Noah’s absence, albeit due to an unfortunate injury, creates an opening in Fred Hoiberg’s crowded front court. He’s been endlessly experimenting with combinations between Gasol-Noah-Gibson-Mirotic with stints of growing fan-favorite Bobby Portis.
Offensively, the Bulls are more potent without Noah. They average 101.5 points without him on the floor, via NBA.com/stats, second only to Taj Gibson at 104.7. The Bulls average around 97 points without Gasol on the floor.
There’s no question of Gasol’s value to the team, especially on the offensive end, but the Bulls might still have to see if Gasol’s value can warrant a productive trade. The 35-year-old is in the second year of a three-year, $22 million deal with a player option of $7.7 million for the 2016-17 season. Gasol said last month he knows he’ll “have some options” with the raised salary cap and will likely opt out to become a free agent this summer.
The Bulls are in an interesting spot because it’s certainly not a bad problem to be stuck with Gasol for another postseason run, but if he’s going to explore the free agent market anyway, they could still be exploring their options as the trade deadline approaches in a month. Teams with the most interest would probably be near contenders, but it’s a stalemate if they’re not willing or able to provide the reasonable assets in return.
The Bulls won’t dump Gasol for just anyone. Unless they’re comfortable with Taj Gibson or Bobby Portis as a small-ball center, Gasol is their only true option at the five without Noah.
Given the circumstances of Joakim Noah and the Bulls current standing in the conference, trading Gasol would be a rash mistake, unless his value warrants a sizable upgrade in another area.