The Chicago Bulls‘ offseason began with the addition of two big men in the NBA Draft and the trend continued after the Bulls missed out on Carmelo Anthony, as the team immediately added 7-foot future hall of famer Pau Gasol, in addition to 6-foot-10 European power forward Nicola Mirotic in free agency.
Though not yet official, the two big men will join rookie power forwards Doug McDermott (6-foot-8, 225 pounds) and Cameron Bairstow (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) as newcomers to the Bulls. The Bulls traded the No. 16 and No. 19 overall picks in the 2014 NBA Draft to the Sacramento Kings for their selection of McDermott, before taking Bairstow with the No. 49 overall pick.
The one thing all four of these players have in common other than their size is that each has the ability to put the ball in the basket. McDermott and Mirotic can both stretch the floor with their long range shooting, while both also possess moves in the paint. Meanwhile, Gasol and Bairstow have the ability to get the job done by imposing their will under the hoop, but can also knock down the mid-range jumper.
The addition of Gasol on a reported 3-year, $22 million contract will likely make the biggest immediate impact on the 2014-2015 Chicago Bulls due to his size and overall game. Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds last season and combined with Joakim Noah, the two should provide the Bulls with a lethal combination of size and scoring ability when they’re both on the court.
Another interesting pairing will be when fellow Europeans Gasol and Nicola Mirotic share the floor. While Doug McDermott should get a reasonable amount of minutes and Cameron Bairstow has intriguing upside, the additions of Gasol and Mirotic should pay the biggest dividends for the Bulls in the upcoming season.
Mirotic has been one of the best players in Europe the past few years after being selected with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Bulls acquired Mirotic’s rights on draft night three years ago but have only now been able to bring him to the States after paying a buyout to Real Madrid for over $3 million and signing him to a reprted 3-year, $17 million contract.
Mirotic averaged 12.4 points per game for Real Madrid this past season with 4.6 rebounds and shot 46.1 percent on three-point attempts. It is that latter number that is so important to the Bulls who sorely lacked shooters last year, especially big men who could stretch the floor. The combination of outside scoring from Mirotic and McDermott should give the Bulls an entirely new look on offense this coming season. Second round pick Cameron Bairstow will also add a new dimension on offense – if Thibodeau allows him to play.
Bairstow averaged 20.4 points per game for New Mexico this past season with 28 percent of his overall offense coming in the post and 29.4 percent of his offense coming on jump shots. Bairstow may struggle initially on defense which will limit his minutes from Coach Thibs, but he should provide the Bulls with offensive depth if needed late in a game.
With the Bulls adding a plethora of big men this offseason, where does that leave Taj Gibson, not to mention Carlos Boozer? Gibson was expected to take on a starting role as the entire city has been anticipating the use of the amnesty provision on Boozer’s contract, however, that has still yet to be made official. By waiving Boozer using the amnesty provision the Bulls would still have to pay him $16.8 million this season, but would have about $9.7 million worth of cap space to operate with. Waiving Boozer to clear cap space is likely essential for the Bulls to make the money work and officially announce the signings of Gasol and Mirotic, and the delay in making it official may be the result of a last ditch effort for the Bulls to trade Boozer. This is a fool’s errand, but due diligence is part of the job.
With Gasol effectively replacing Boozer on the roster it will be interesting to see if Thibodeau trusts him in the fourth quarter, or if camera shots of Gasol sitting on the bench will be common at the end of games as Thibs goes to his trusted combo of Noah and Gibson. Despite the influx of big men this offseason, Gibson’s role on the Bulls will continue to be the first big off the bench and he should not lack for playing time after earning the trust of Thibodeau.
The Bulls now possess a flexible roster that can adapt throughout a game to Thibodeau’s liking. With the length of quickness of Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell allowing them to play both small forward and shooting guard, the additions of four new big men to go alongside Noah and Gibson will give the Bulls an exciting amount of versatility that Thibodeau is sure to take full advantage of. The new look of the Bulls has even caused some to proclaim them as the favorites in the East.
Just ask Magic Johnson.