Bulls Warned Over Potential Trade for Three-Time Defensive Player of the Year

Rudy Gobert

Getty Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

At least one analyst thinks that the Chicago Bulls (46-36) should refrain from making a blockbuster trade for Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert this offseason.

The Bulls’ regular season ended with a 124-120 Bulls victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 10. They will take on the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs starting with Game 1 on Sunday, April 17.

With that daunting task ahead of them, and in many ways because of it, some believe Gobert to be the perfect solution to the Bulls’ shortcomings.

Heavy’s Brian Mazique recently reported on Brian Gelzeiler of Hoops Critic’s appearance on “Bernstein and Rahimi” on 670 The Score in Chicago in which Gelzeiler called Nikola Vucevic a “sieve” defensively and suggested that the Bulls should swap him for Gobert.

“Because that spot, with [DeMar] DeRozan and [Zach] LaVine on the floor, needs to be a defensive-oriented five, a guy that’s going to block and change shots…You need a legit rim protector, a guy that patrols the paint to be able to make up for some of the mistakes of your perimeter guys.”

NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson reported that the Bulls would indeed pursue an option such as Gobert (or Anthony Davis or De’Andre Ayton) if available. But he also called that an “extreme longshot” scenario before saying he expects Vucevic to return.

Not Everyone Agrees

Forbes contributor and host of “The NBA Podcast”, Morten Jensen, took to Twitter to disagree with the idea that Gobert is the answer the Bulls seek. He even went a step further and suggested adding the five-time All-Defensive Team member would be to the detriment of DeRozan.

To that point, DeRozan has enjoyed a career-year setting new highs with 27.9 points per game while shooting 35.2 percent from downtown and has even garnered some MVP love.

The Compton native is shooting 47.0% in the mid-range. That is the second-highest mark of his career only trailing the 47.1% he shot last season with the San Antonio Spurs.

He also increased his attempts from 5.4 to 9.8 per game.

DeRozan credited working with the late Kobe Bryant and a desire to constantly improve for his late-career resurgence in an interview with ESPN’s Jamal Collier back in January.

In a piece for Forbes from October, Mortensen also figured Vucevic would bounce back from his 46.2% true shooting mark at the time. Vucevic did, though, he finished the year at 53.3% which is still the fourth-worst mark of his career.

On top of the potential floor spacing issues that Mortensen points out, CHGO’s Mark Karantzoulis also took to Twitter to note the irony in Bulls fans wanting to move off of their undesired assets for a perennial All-Pro. Given the report from Johnson, though, the Bulls aren’t leaving anything off of the table.

Gobert on the Bulls

Mitchell’s passing stats were pointed out by Stat Muse. He averages just 2.3 passes to the center per game. Jazz point guard Mike Conley averages 6.0 passes to the Frenchman. For comparison, Vucevic receives 11.4 passes from LaVine and 10.7 from Lonzo Ball.

A career 34.8% shooter from long distance and a proven post player, Vucevic’s offensive toolbox is larger than Gobert’s who is mostly relegated to catching lobs and getting putbacks.

However, Gobert has still managed to rank in the 82nd percentile as a roll man in the screen game, per NBA.com ranking 12th in those possessions and 31st in frequency. Vucevic ranks in the 24th percentile despite leading the NBA in attempts as the roll man with 6.6 per game and ranking fifth in frequency.

Gobert generates 1.32 points per play as the roll man compared to 0.94 points per play for Vucevic.

He also leads the league in screen assists — Vucevic checks in at seventh.

Both Utah and Chicago rank in the top three in the rate of pick-and-roll plays finished by the ball handler, per NBA.com data. But Chicago also ranks second in the frequency of plays finished by the roll man while Utah ranks 16th.

The Bulls pivot has been called out by many for his poor defense this season, including The Athletic’s John Hollinger. Hollinger is the inventor of Player Efficiency Rating, or PER, the advanced metric in which Gobert ranks 15th and Vucevic ranks 18th.

That would not be an issue for Gobert who Salt City Hoops’ Zarin Ficklin says is deserving of winning a fourth Defensive Player of the Year award.

Wearing Out Welcomes

The big man’s relationship with Donovan Mitchell has been the subject of debate. The guard sent out a heartfelt message on Instagram after testing positive for Coronavirus in 2020 that many felt took a shot at his teammate.

Gobert infamously touched all of the microphones in his press conference following a team shootaround in March of 2020. The World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

That evening, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski interrupted a game between the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets to report that Gobert had tested positive that evening and that the NBA season would be put on pause.

On March 12 of 2020, Wojnarowski reported that Mitchell had tested positive.

On the one-year anniversary of WHO’s declaration and Gobert’s positive test, Mitchell told Tony Jones of The Athletic that he believed the ordeal “helped” bring out the best in them both.

Gobert commended Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns whom he said were “a step ahead of us in terms of winning habits” in an interview with Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune largely about his return from health and safety protocols in January.

Mitchell responded via Walden the next day saying, “We all, as a group, find ways to hold each other accountable. That’s just his way about it, I guess,” before adding that he was “not really concerned about it.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on the “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” podcast that the duo was “at each other’s throats” in a report that Mitchell told Jones was “just not true”.

Gobert has shared his thoughts on all of the controversy surrounding the pair, among other things, with NBA Today’s Malika Andrew on April 7.

That was after a dejected Mitchell in a video courtesy of Clutch Points’ Tomer Azarly called out “literally the same thing” after the Jazz blew a 25-point second-half lead to the Los Angeles Clippers on March 29.

Fifth-seeded Utah finished the season going 4-2 following that loss and will face the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their first-round matchup on Saturday, April 16. But this is a story that will last beyond their stay in the playoffs.

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