Another trade deadline has come and gone, and the Bulls have solved exactly zero of their problems. Capping off the day with a bow out to Cleveland, the Bulls are just a single game above .500, hanging barely onto the the eighth seed. The season has been spiraling out of control since their 6-game win streak ended in early January. Since that point, they’re 5-14, with wins coming against the Sixers, Lakers and Kings.
Since the calendar turned to 2016, only the Suns, Lakers and Nets have a worse net rating than the Bulls. Think about that.
— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) February 19, 2016
Things are not going as planned, and a trade deadline move felt near necessary. Woj gave us hope, only to take it away as the Bulls lost out on a chance to fleece the Kings.
The lost Gasol deal
The Bulls had talks to do something substantial. As reported by The Vertical, Gar Forman and John Paxson were prepared to move Gasol and Tony Snell for Ben McLemore, Kosta Koufos and a lowering of the protection on the pick the Kings already owe the Bulls, presently top-10 protected. It seemed too good to be true. Turns out, it was. Unfortunately so, because the Bulls would have come out with a young, athletic two-guard in McLemore, who has been buried in George Karl’s roster despite his raw upside, and Koufos, a solid, 27-year old center on what will be a reasonable deal in an exploding cap. Importantly, the Bulls could have ensured themselves the Kings pick, which is looking more and more like it won’t convey as the Kings are falling into a suboptimal position themselves.
GarPax had Kings management bent over a barrel. They were desperate to add a veteran leader, and a quality player to take them to the Playoffs as they prepare to move into their new arena, clamoring for the chance to start anew on better terms. Inexplicably, they were also enamored with Snell. The Bulls were never going to find a team that overvalued Gasol and Snell, the way the Kings did. They had the chance to get younger and better long term, while solidifying their draft stock without losing too much ground in the short term.
Of course, the stipulation, and speculated breaking point in the deal, was the fact that the Kings owed their pick to the 76ers if it was not conveyed to the Bulls. For the Kings to be able to make this deal work, they would have needed to incorporate Philadelphia into the mix, giving them a sweetener that would allow the Bulls to get the pick, even if it fell into the top-10.
Conferred w/ the league office today: Any amendment to an owed draft pick protection cannot impact another draft pick obligation in any way. — Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) February 18, 2016
Any deal where the Kings and Bulls amend the protection on Sac's 2016 pick automatically has to become a three-team trade with the Sixers. — Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) February 18, 2016
Why would the 76ers help the Kings get better when they had swap-rights? They wouldn’t. Unless of course, they get some value in return. Regardless of whether or not this is the reason the trade fell through, it’s not the end of the world to hold off on the deal under these circumstances. The pick is an important part of the deal. But by all accounts, it was GarPax who wavered.
On Pau Gasol-to-Sac possibility that the Yahoo crew reported, I'm getting skepticism from Bulls side that a deal will materialize today. — Sam Amick (@sam_amick) February 18, 2016
While Kings hoping to get something done with Bulls by deadline, chances “dwindling,” per source. — David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) February 18, 2016
But Sacramento, according to ESPN sources, has not yet abandoned its trade pursuit of Chicago's Pau Gasol with just under an hour to go
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2016
Obviously, making a trade is incredibly challenging. Letting go of a valuable player is hard to do and it isn't easy to find an exchange that leaves both parties feeling that they got something they wanted. It’s what held them up that is concerning. But the Kings seemed determined to make something work, and the Bulls should have found a way to capitalize on their dysfunction.
Instead, in classic GarPax fashion, they overvalued their guy, in an act that perpetuates their increasingly egregious mandate that the roster can win, as is.
I’ve never heard a bad thing about Pau Gasol the person. For his scoring ability, championship experience, leadership and character, he is valuable to the Bulls. But, whatever promise or expectation he had with management to sign in Chicago in the first place, has strong-armed Coach Hoiberg into limited control over his lineups. He is in a position of too much power, and it hurts the team.
Losing out on Gasol now might ensure that the Bulls miss the Playoffs for the first time in 7 years - a pill that inevitably became too tough for GarPax to swallow. But the Bulls are headed down rather than up, even with Gasol on the roster. And the Hornets, Pistons, Wizards and Magic all made significant upgrades to actively chase playoff spots.
Even with Chris Bosh’s uncertainty after sustaining another set of blood clot issues, there are 5 teams vying for 2 spots (assuming the Pacers and Hornets are safe). At this state, with Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic out for extended periods of time and Noah done for the season, the Bulls haven’t been able to keep up.
The Front Office wasn’t in a position to do nothing. Fading quickly out of the Playoff picture, the flaws in the Bulls roster have been exposed. Be it lack of shooting, depth, defense, ball moving ability or a locker room that enjoys playing together, the Bulls had a real chance to make a change. Instead, they dealt Kirk Hinrich in a last second “Hey look guys, we did something!” move for Justin Holiday and a 2nd round pick, which will likely end up in the late 40s or early 50s. In reality, they lowered their luxury tax bill.
As an aside, Holiday is a nice player. The 26-year old, older brother of former 76ers All-Star and current New Orleans Pelicans guard, Jrue Holiday, he might eventually have a chance to contribute. But hasn’t done much to this point in his career.
The 8-9-10 teams in the East all made a move or moves at the deadline. The Bulls, in 7th, traded Kirk Hinrich for a 2nd round pick.
— Derek James (@DerekJamesNBA) February 18, 2016
That doesn’t save this season or set the Bulls up for the future. It effectively perpetuates the “we have more than enough to win” mentality.
What it means for free agency this summer
The scariest possible outcome may come to fruition, now, as keeping Gasol on the roster for the remainder of the season only increases the probability of the Bulls making an unbearably ill-informed decision to bring him back on a new contract.
In interview with the Tribune, Bulls GM Gar Forman confirms team will try to re-sign Pau Gasol this summer.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 18, 2016
"We see him as a big piece of what we're doing today and in the future," was the quote Forman gave ESPN.com after the no-trade.
Regardless of this statements honesty, the fact that it's out there is terrifying. Making Gasol a priority for the future is criminal. To do so, they would have to use precious cap space to sign him, because Gasol the Bulls don't have his full Bird Rights. This would hamper the Bulls ability to sign other free-agents and keep them securely on their sisyphean path of mediocrity.