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Bulls Taking A Chance On Gasol, Mirotic

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 14, 2014 2:00PM

Photo credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Only the most meatheaded Bulls fans believed the team had a chance of signing Lebron James. Carmelo Anthony seemed like like a more realistic option until reports surfaced Saturday Anthony will return to the New York Knicks.

But you always have to have a backup plan and the Bulls' showed they did Saturday when Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol announced (on his website and his Twitter feed, natch) he would sign with the Bulls. The deal is not yet official.

Gasol said the decision to leave Tinseltown behind wasn't easy but ultimately knowing the Lakers are in a rebuilding process and, at 34, Gasol wants another opportunity to win another NBA Title and believes the Bulls can provide him with the best opportunity.

The 13-year veteran has career totals of 18.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game and has a career field goal percentage of 51.5 percent. Gasol has solid low post skills, a good perimeter game and jump shot, and superb passing ability for a forward. Gasol's skillset will serve as a fine complement to Joakim Noah's passing game and he could become a favored target for Derrick Rose both in the paint (where Gasol prefers to play) and when Rose kicks the ball out on drives to the basket.

But the Bulls are taking a chance on Gasol. Injuries limited his playing time the past two seasons and he's long carried a reputation for being soft defensively, although he's nowhere near the defensive liability Carlos Boozer was late in games. He game wasn't utilized to best effect by Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, either. If he can stay healthy, Gasol should be able to bounce back in Chicago under Tom Thibodeau, who now has some flexibility in offensive sets with a front court of Gasol, Noah and Taj Gibson. Noah isn't a classic back-to-the-basket center, but if Thibodeau has to rely on Noah to facilitate the offense this season, he can kick the ball to Gasol and Gibson in the low post. Gibson's strong game in the paint also allows Gasol to move to the perimeter and play the high post.

The Bulls will shore up their big man bench depth with the expected addition of highly touted 2011 draft pick Nikola Mirotic, who announced via Twitter Sunday he was joining the Bulls and can provide relief for both Gasol and Gibson. As Comcast SportsNet's Aggery Sam notes, Thibodeau doesn't normally give rookies extended minutes but the Bulls have waited years to bring Mirotic into the fold and the seasoning he's gained playing in Europe doesn't make him a typical rookie. Still, he'll have to earn a spot in the Bulls' bench rotation and if he can prove himself would become a vital component to keep the front court fresh during the course of a season and playoff run.

Another factor playing into the Bulls landing Gasol is the city's cultural foundation. ESPN reports Oklahoma City and league champion San Antonio were looking to acquire Gasol but Chicago's size and cosmopolitan reputation swayed him toward the Bulls.

To add Gasol and Mirotic, the Bulls will need to free some salary cap space and that means saying goodbye to Boozer. The team can either arrange a trade for the forward—good luck with that—or waive him by using the "amnesty clause" in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. The Bulls have until Wednesday to do that.