Changing Pau Gasol's role

Changing Pau Gasol's role

There is something you need to know about me. I like jump shooting. I really, really like jump shooting. Like, a lot. I still miss you, Kyle.

The drafting of Nikola Mirotic got my excited. Watching it come to life years later, especially against Memphis on Dec 19, where he rained in six bombs from deep. Wow.

Who else was giddy watching those McDermott YouTube clips this time last year? Takes me back to those simpler times.

Naturally, with this in mind, whilst also having to find another team to root for come post-season time after the Bulls get beaten by a LeBron James led team, is it any wonder that I purchased first class tickets aboard the Spurs and Warriors bandwagon?

Ok, so I’ve babbled on. You now know more about me. What the hell am I trying to say?

Well, in a round about way, my point is, I would be a happy Chicago fan if we could finally join the norms of the NBA and start playing some 4-out/1-in basketball.

Most teams in the league are now employing variations of offensive sets where they have, at minimum, four players facing the basket and being threats to score from the outside.

Go through the list of NBA teams. The majority are experimenting with this in some form, be it within their main starting units or within their rotations. We’ve seen what the Warriors have done, particularly in the Finals. Who needs bigs?

Meanwhile, in Chicago, we’re closing playoff games against the Cavaliers with Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, who provide no scoring option from the outside, and inconsistent offensive play in the paint. My head hurts just typing that.

So, how can we achieve this in Chicago now that toy boy Hoiberg is at the helm? How can we bring in this perimeter orientated game style? Do we have the personnel with the current roster to go 4-out/1-in?

We don’t really have many options to go small. We don’t have a Draymond Green type here that can enable that type of small ball. Maybe if Ron Adams had his way come drafting time? Burn.

The obvious answer is giving the reigns to Mirotic at PF. He struggled with his shot this season, only shooting 31.6% from downtown. That number is way below the league average for 2015 (35.0%). This was somewhat expected as he adjusted and transitioned to the NBA game, but the foundation is there for Chicago to have a stretch four option should he improve the consistency of his stroke.

Can we put McDermott in for some small ball four? He did play there in his Creighton days. Could he do it in the Pros? Doug is a complete unknown at this point so using this as a viable rotational move come Oct 29 is certainly a stretch. Scratch this idea for the time being.

Butler at PF? Harrison Barnes can man that position well, why couldn’t a bulldog like Butler? His length would certainly be a reason why it couldn’t work. Barnes wingspan comes in at 6’11.25”. Butler, in comparison, only has a wingspan of 6’7.5”. Is it a complete no go? Probably not, but you would certainly have to be selective with this option against specific match ups.

What about Joakim Noah? Tornado 3s? Yes, I am joking. Calm down. Fred, what do you think?


So, what can we do? Do we have any options with this current group come day one of the 2015-16 season?

I think we do.


Something, to me, that was not spoken about enough in Pau’s mini resurgence in his first season with the Bulls - which saw him rewarded with an All-NBA 2nd team selection - was his incredible shooting from 16 to 23 feet.

Why was that?

Why didn’t it get more attention?

It bothered me all season long that we kept using Pau in the post. Don’t get me wrong. He is a good post player and establishing an inside presence, even if it’s only as a passing hub within an offense, is a good idea.

Was that a good idea for this team and it current make up?

Derrick Rose continually struggled to get to the hoop as he assimilated back to the NBA game. Jimmy Butler was a great post option and loves attacking the rim, living in the paint and getting to the line. Joakim Noah couldn’t buy a shot from anywhere.

All this happened, so why did we continually clog the lanes?

Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Dirk Nowitzki are routinely mentioned as the premier mid-range shooting bigs in the game, and for good reason. Stylistically, these players rely heavily on the jump shot as a main source of their offense. Their styles of play enables their respective teams to have four face up options, something I crave as a fan of the game.

Using these three players' 2014-15 season as a bench mark, focusing on FG% from 16 to 23 feet, where does Pau rate against them?

LaMarcus Aldridge – 40.9%

Chris Bosh – 45.5%

Dirk Nowitzki – 47.4%

Pau Gasol – 48.1%

Is their any credibility in using him more as a jump shooter, similar to Bosh or Aldridge?

To me, there certainly is merit in this idea.

Another thing to consider is the lack of pick and roll basketball the Bulls decided to play, particularly where the screen setter/roll man would be given the ball.

In the recently completed season, the Bulls ranked 27th in the NBA in points from the roll man.

Should this really surprise us?

Not really. Often, when the Bulls did run pick and roll, it was to benefit penetration from our guards, most notably Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler.

When the Bulls did choose to use the big man as a receiver or beneficiary of a pick and roll/pop play, it was often Joakim Noah doing the work, receiving the ball 18 feet out with no readily available moves that could hurt the opposition. No, I am not counting the occasional baseline back door pass he would thread through a defense as a reliable option within a functional offense.

Essentially, what I want is more of this, like we did very well in game 1 against the Cavs, as Coach Nick explains:

As he ages, he will lose his agility. He will lose what speed and any athleticism he has left. Wait, he has some left?

How long can we expect him to bang down low in the post against younger and more athletic big men? Is that efficient basketball?

One of my key interests heading into the Hoiberg era will be how he manages the roles for each player, especially for the veterans in the front court. From his introduction press conference, Fred mentioned this:

I love the versatility of the players, the different lineups that we're going to be able to play -- play small, play big. We've got lineups that I really think can come out and play with pace (and) we've got a great group of veterans who know how to play.

It looks like he will explore a range of combinations, at least early on, most likely settling with a rotation and a game plan at a latter point in the season. How will this break for the team and for each individual?

Will Gasol remain a starter? Will he (hopefully not) still play around 35 minutes a night? Will his role drastically change under new eyes? What will the starting combination up front be?

This all remains to be seen. Ultimately, Coach Hoiberg will be responsible for answering these questions. I hope he can make me happy, just like Kirk used to.


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  • If Niko and McD can start hitting their threes then that will bring in a lot of shooting for every Bulls fan to enjoy - right now that's still an "if."

  • Great article. Will be interesting to see how GarPax handles the bigs next season. I feel like there has to be a trade... Maybe Noah? Or, Gibson, even though I'm a huge fan and he is a solid 2 way player off the bench?

    Would love to see Gasol and Mirotic play the 5 with Gibson sprinkled in here and there off the bench. Gibson has extended his range... Can he bring it out to the corner 3? Can he work on his ball handling in order to be Draymond Green-like?

    Yes, I would be happy with a Noah trade even with not much in return. It's been a nice run.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Niko at the 5, really, he isn't anything like Draymond Green even if he is taller. Even when they were on the floor together, Taj played center on defense.

  • Well with Gibson being out for the early portion of the season and likely having a slow start when he does return, that should help with the log jam in our front court. As much as I would like to see a trade I have a hard time seeing any of our bigs being traded prior to the trade deadline.

    I'm curious to see how Hoiberg handles the situation. Gasol to me is the perfect type of vet big to come off bench, but it's hard to justify benching him when he's out playing every other big on the team regardless of his flaws. We got nothing from Noah last season and nothing from Taj other than the occasional two handed slam. Miritoc is a guy I would like to see get a opportunity to start. My only gripes with him is that he does way too many pump fakes at the expense of a good shot, and he tends to pull the trigger on threes before anyone has a chance to get position for a rebound. But I think he was taking those threes like that because Thibs constantly played him at the small forward position where he was very uncomfortable. He didn't have good matchups at that position and that on top of the fact that Thibs would put him on the bench for weeks wasn't good for his confidence.

    As for McDermott we'll see. I didn't like what I saw from him at all even in the short spurts he had. Maybe again it was Thibs fault for not playing him, maybe he wasn't ready, or maybe his knee was worse off than we all thought. Whatever the case is I'm holding my breath on McDNP. I still don't agree that he was worth two 1st round picks which would look really good right about now and would've saved a lot of trouble. But I'm gonna try to believe in him because like it or not as long as Gar/Pax is around he's gonna be here for a looooong time. I'm talking Hinrich years because he's their kinda guy.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    as well as 3 second round picks(McDNP). I too would like to see Gasol be the offensive anchor for the second unit. However, he has clearly indicated that he simply won't accept that role and has been and will be a disruption if he is forced to.

  • In order to beat Cleveland, Chicago must revamp their lineup by going after Lamarcus Aldridge now for max. Once convinced he's in the fold they can trade Gibson and Kirk Hinrich (saving $12) to Toronto before July 1 for Amir Johnson, Terrance ? (NBA Dunking Champ who scored 51pts again Okla. and can create his own shot) , and their 20th draft pick. They can waive before July 1st Johnson saving another $7 million paving the way for 2 max players including Butler. They would then have a more versitle young big and proven scorer while Mirotic is being groomed at same position. They need Aldridge and Butler to contain Labron James. Gasol could focus as backup center. With two draft picks they may be able to trade up for big point guard or shooting guard.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    The Raptors can't trade Amir Johnson, he is a free agent.

    In addition, teams cannot trade players under the following circumstances:

    When the trade deadline has passed. Teams are free to make trades again once their season has ended, but cannot trade players whose contracts are ending or could end due to an option or ETO.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I'm surprised that you bothered to responded, there is very little in that post that is accurate or even within the realm of reality.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I haven't had much time to talk about the Bulls this summer, between writing lyrics for a new album and umpiring summer baseball, so I figured I would jump back in with something simple...

  • Terranance Ross is the other player in the potential trade with Toronto. He is athletic, has a basketball IQ, is insinctive and about ready to overcome his immaturity--he is worth the gamble especially if Aldridge is committed to the Bulls.

  • The only way possible that the Bulls can clear out enough cap space to sign Aldridge to the max (around $19 million, I don't feel like doing the exact math) would be to trade away almost the entire roster to teams with cap space without taking back any salary in return.

    They would have to get to $48.1 million in TOTAL salary, including Butler's $5 million cap hold. They would have to dump Taj and Noah for nothing to even start getting close, but unless you trade Rose then he, Gasol, Mirotic, and Butler cost $38 million against the cap, meaning the other 7 roster spots could only make $10 million. Snell, McDermott, Moore, Bairstow and the #22 pick will be $7 million, so you'd have to fill the other three spots with minimum salary players.

    #22 pick
    3 minimum salaries

    Aldridge is good, but he's nowhere near THAT good.

  • You could have Aldridge threaten Portland that he's leaving to a team with cap space no matter what, and maybe they sign and trade him for Noah and Gibson, but that still leaves the Bulls with no real bench outside of Niko and Snell.

    Though I'd probably start Snell and bring McDermott off the bench in that case.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Aldridge for Noah and Gibson all day, every day.

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    In reply to Granby:

    Yup, that's an absolute no brainer. Draft a backup center in the draft or find a reclaimation project for vet min ( unlikely, perhaps someone chasing a ring, lol )

    Although not a great defensive team ESP in the paint, but I would take my chances against any team in either conference w a healthy


    Moore, Mirotic, and McDermott is an okay bench. Just need that backup big.

    I am just not sure there are enough balls on offense. The key would be for Hoiberg to get these guys playing faster ESP in the beginning of the year, so on missed shots and turnovers push the ball so the guy w the first open shot on offense gets it.

    Perhaps adding Aldridge might make Butler and Rose happier and they somehow figure out how to coexist. ( as they need to realize they are each better when they are on the court together )

    Still a pipe dream. Biggest FA we are getting this year is that anxiety knucklehead from Iowa State. ( can't think of his name rt now )

  • In reply to Granby:

    I'd rather give Mirotic a shot as the full-time PF than pay max for Aldridge. It's about bang-for-buck, and I don't think the bang-for-buck with Aldridge at the max is all that great.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Somewhat surprisingly Aldridge turns 30 in July, it doesn't seem like he's been around that long. Although, as a big man he's probably still close to the top of his game for his next contract. But you're right that with Niko on board the Bulls would be better off spending max money at other positions, like SF.

  • In reply to Granby:

    That deal might have been doable a year or 2 ago, now it's a gun to your head deal for Portland and I doubt that Aldridge is inclined to do so for the Bulls, unless he just wants to get out of the West even if that means having to beat Lebron to get to the finals.

    If he leaves, Texas seems to be his best destination, or perhaps he likes the money in LA or NY. As usual the Bulls would seem to play second fiddle when it comes to the top FA's.

  • I think Bulls fans will find interest in this excerpt on Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville, from a Blackhawks blog, this quote is from someone outside their organization:

    "Players want to play for Q, he is a players' coach and they NEVER practice & if they do they are all short. They have more days off than any team in the league, its not even close!"

    Q is a Hall of Fame coach, recent winner of 3 championships, and one of the winningest NHL coaches ever. For all the 'Hawks' high-flying offense, he's old school in that he stresses defense and winning board battles -- good offensive players who don't do these things don't stay on the team. But he's new school in his approach to practicing, unlike, say, a coach who believes that you win championships through long, hard practices and grueling workouts ;-).

  • In reply to Roman F:

    wow. Interesting, thanks for sharing. Although I did watch the cup I don't watch/follow hockey much.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Very interesting to hear that.

    There were also 2 in depth articles on ESPN over the weekend about the impact that fatigue in all its forms(minutes per game, multiple games in back to back nights, as well as travel and sleep deprivation) has on all athletes. It seems that international sports are way ahead of American sports in understanding this area and making it a top priority in their overall training and practice policies.

    It also pointed out some interesting things that the Warriors did this season and that they were the least injured team in the league. For instance, they no longer travel immediately after a night game, they stay overnight in the city that they played and travel the next day.

    It is absolutely clear that the best teams are already benefitting from doing everything that they can to lessen the physical, mental and emotional burdens on their players. Old school machismo is dead, or dying with dinosaurs like Thibs.

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    In reply to BigWay:

    That's what the SF Giants do after playoff games. I know it's a different sport but that's where GS got it from.

  • LA is a pipe dream. He's a FA, so why come to the Bulls? Especially with the dysfunction between Thibs and the FO. I know Thibs is gone now, but how they handled Skiles, VDN, Thibs...the poor reputation about the FO lives on. Portland can offer him the most money/years (this is likely his last big payday), plus the Blazers have stressed continuity being a key to winning. If he bolts, it'd be to Dallas or SA. He gets to go back home to Texas.

    Back to Pau though...I think while his midrange game was great last year, it takes him so long to shoot the ball. It seemed like a lot of his shots were generated when defenses collapsed on the PNR ballhandler. It left him wide open and most teams are willing to concede the "dead zone" of a midrange jump shot. He was very effective, but it'll be up to Hoiberg to get him open looks.

    Depending on the team, I think you could definitely have Butler defend 4s. Hopefully Niko develops a bit more, because while he isn't a small ball 4, he can space the floor and go more with the 4 out/1 in philosophy.

    I remember Doug saying that after watching McD in person (?), he said there's no way McD is a 4. It'll be interesting to see how he uses the young guys. Keep in mind the (previous) coaching staff has done a good job developing young guys, even if they don't play at all their rookie year. So hopefully that trend will continue for McD (and I think it will as he has such a good stroke).

  • NBA Draft on Thursday. I'm sensing a let down after the McDermott no-show from last year's draft where two number ones merged into McClank essentially from three. Plus in recent drafts more and more of these 19 year olds/freshman just don't really do anything for the first year or two which makes the whole thing seem somewhat irrelevant.

    That said, judging from Mort's polls and poster comments it seems that Jerian Grant and Delon Wright are the two favorites at this point. Also some interest in Terry Rozier and Joseph Young, but for most I'm guessing they'd be dark horses. We'll see what happens.

    If Mirotic emerges in the coming season, and McD can at least shoot a decent percentage on volume threes I think some of the excitement in the draft will return. Personally I'm still hoping for Joseph Young, but odds are all the hype won't amount to too much other then he'll go late first or early second as in anyone in Bull's neighborhood won't be caught "reaching" as they say. If Rozier and Young are off the table I'd personally likely be inclined to take Grant over Wright, but they are a close call..

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    If you expect a draft pick to come in and make a huge difference on a contending team, then you're 100% correct that the whole thing is irrelevant and you are going to be disappointed.

    I think that's why the league went to 4-year contracts for 1st-round picks, you just can't tell what kind of a player you have until 2 (and often 3 or 4) years into his NBA career.

    And players taken #22 or later in the draft rarely stay in the league more than 3-4 years at best, though the Bulls have been outstanding at finding players in the 20s since Paxson took over.

  • I wish there was a way to know for sure what Hoiberg wanted to do. I'm tired of the mystery. I get tired of hearing that Rose or Noah or Gibson will be traded, because none of it makes any sense. I don't see how the team is closer to a championship by trading those guys for mid-first round rookies or other role players. Like the one I read today that the Bulls trade Rose to Denver for Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler. Why would they do that? In my opinion, the best course of action is to run with this core for one more year. Keep all the bigs, just figure out the best combinations. As for Butler, I love him and want the Bulls to do what they can to keep him, but if he wants the Lakers so bad maybe they should work a sign and trade. If he's that unhappy, it will hurt the team. I don't know if he's a franchise player, but if the Lakers do then maybe they give up whoever they take at #2 and they can pull off a Wiggins\Love type deal.

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    Pa, You gotta pull off some sort of big man trade because all 4 can't get that much time on the court and non can play the 3.

    Also, trading someone like Noah clears a ton of cap space this year. Of course, in theory, a healthy Noah is worth more than a mid-1st round pick, but there is a salary cap and if it means locking up Butler and resigning Dunleavy and doing additional roster moves, then moving Noah makes sense.

    I'd love to keep Gasol and Gibson b/c they are better offensive players and their contracts are great values.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Noah only buys you some cap space if you trade him and use the space before resigning Butler. Once Butler's new deal is on the books the Bulls will be capped out and threatening the tax threshold.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Which is what they would do, of course, trade him and use the space, then resign Butler.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Trading Noah wouldn't even get you a whole lot of cap space, maybe $10 million but you lose the MLE of close to $6 million, so it's only worth it IMHO if you get a lottery pick for Noah.

    If you want real cap space, you have to trade Rose and Noah, but that could certainly be done. Phil isn't interested in a long rebuild, I think he'd gladly give up the #4 pick and Calderon for Rose and Noah.

    Rose/Melo/Noah with Hardaway, Larkin and the Room MLE plus veterans for the minimum gets him into the playoffs in the East.

    That would give the Bulls all the cap space they would need to sign whoever they want, and they either take Porzingis or Mudiay/Russell at #4.

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    If they can trade Rose they absolutely should. He's a poor value at this point, an average PG making superstar money. I'd give him away just to free up the cap space. He'll probably be better next year, hopefully better than average, but I can't see him ever being a good value on this contract. The Bulls went from "lucking" into Rose to really getting a bad break of luck with him.

    As far as the big men, no matter how much you like each individual player, as Granby points out, there's a logjam so someone needs to go. Sure they're all good players but there just aren't enough minutes to go around.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I see why the Bulls would trade Rose for Lawson and Chandler, tho I don't know the salary situation. Would it work out well? Who knows?

    I hope they hit on the #22 pick - and buy a 2nd round pick.

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