The Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert trade talk continues despite the team’s consistent message of continuity. They hope better health yields better results. But that plan has not always been fruitful.
Things have been relatively quiet on the Bulls’ front. The main priority continues to be Zach LaVine’s free agency decision. Some have felt that the Bulls’ roster limitations could lead him to depart while the local optimism remains high.
Most on the outside agree that there have to be some tweaks made to the current group. Some suggestions have been small like adding Dennis Schroder to the bench.
Others, like this proposal from Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz, figure to reshape the roster. Swartz’s proposal sends forwards Javonte Green and Patrick Williams along with center Nikola Vucevic in exchange for Gobert.
New Look Bulls
Swartz begins explaining that the Bulls falling off defensively after the All-Star break was predictable and warrants an influx of serious defensive talent.
Chicago’s defense was predictably bad this season, falling all the way to 25th overall after the All-Star break (117.9 rating)…You know who would help? A three-time Defensive Player of the Year who’s still in his prime.
The Bulls’ defense ranked 18th with a 109.4 defensive rating, per NBA.com, before starting point guard Lonzo Ball went down with a bone bruise in his knee that turned into a torn meniscus requiring surgery.
Gobert improved what was otherwise a pitiful Jazz defense by 8.4 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor last season, a figure that ranked in the 96th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s an elite rim protector and rebounder who could thrive catching lobs from Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine.
To that last point, Gobert generated 1.00 points per possession as the roll-man with a 62.5 effective field goal percentage, per NBA.com. Vucevic generated 1.05 PPP in those situations with a 53.8 effective field goal percentage.
The difference was frequency. Gobert, who infamously sees little attention in Utah’s system, was only on the finishing end of those plays 22.6% of the time compared to Vucevic’s 40.6%.
Helping Utah Jazz Things Up
The Jazz stand to benefit as well coming off of their 4-2 first-round playoff series loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Two of those games came with Mavs star Luka Doncic sidelined with a calf injury. There have also been rumblings of discontent between Gobert and teammate Donovan Mitchell for two years.
Swartz’s proposal takes care of a few of Utah’s issues.
Vucevic would give Utah a two-time All-Star at center, one who would help ease the offensive burden on Donovan Mitchell. While Vucevic isn’t the paint protector that Gobert is, Utah’s wing defense improves with the additions of Williams, the No. 4 overall pick in 2020, and Green.
One league executive told Heavy’s Sean Deveney that the Bulls “know” that they “have to” move off of Vucevic. But Williams’ name comes as a bit of a surprise from Utah’s perspective.
Vucevic has been considered to be a package deal with guard Coby White while some expect Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to give Williams plenty of time as his first-ever draft pick in this role.
He has a $14.2 million player option for 2024.
Williams has flashed offensively while his defensive potential is very high. But inconsistency has plagued him when healthy over his first two years leading him to mention seeking it this offseason during his exit interview.
Green gave the Bulls some good minutes and energy off of the bench. But his minutes dwindled down the stretch and in the postseason.
As a bonus, Swartz’s proposal gives the Jazz financial relief moving forward.
Utah also saves $8.3 million in the trade, taking a big chunk out of its luxury tax bill.
Pros and Cons Aplenty
Not everyone has been on board with this potential move. The reasons have ranged from spacing concerns with DeMar DeRozan very much a part of the team’s immediate future to Gobert’s perceived lack of offensive acumen (see above).
Chicago must weigh the balance of losing Vucevic’s shooting against his expiring contract.
That shooting did not help them against the Bucks, though, as the Bulls’ big man shot just 44.0% from the floor and 31.0% from three-point range.
Of course, the same could be said for Gobert and the Jazz. But the fit for each player seems better on the other team. The question is whether or not the Bulls have enough faith in Williams’ development to pass on the known commodity in Gobert.