The Jazz flamed out of the playoffs this season and are in line for some big changes. We just saw Quin Snyder step down as head coach, and then there’s the question of what happens with Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. Utah currently seems to want to move forward with Donovan Mitchell as the centerpiece as long as he doesn’t ask out, meaning a Gobert trade is likelier. Will the Bulls get involved?
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor initially mentioned the Bulls as a team with interest in Gobert on Monday (he also mentioned Mitchell Robinson), and then Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer piggybacked KOC’s report with his own report on Tuesday about interest in the Jazz center. Fischer took it a step further by saying “the popular package that’s been mentioned by league executives of Vucevic and second-year forward Patrick Williams would introduce the perimeter defender the Jazz have long been said to covet.”
However, Fischer also notes that “Chicago’s willingness to part with Williams remains to be seen,” highlighting again an unwillingness to include the young forward in Jerami Grant trade discussions ahead of the deadline. Coby White and Javonte Green are other names brought up as possible inclusions in a trade.
Similar to the recent rumblings about Zach LaVine’s alleged issues with DeMar DeRozan, this Gobert chatter seems to be coming from around the NBA and not necessarily from Chicago. While it makes sense for the Bulls to be exploring a change at center given Vucevic’s down season at 31 and the current roster construction, it’s unclear just how they really feel about the possibility of trading for Gobert, especially if that involves using Williams to do it.
The Gobert situation is a rather fascinating one. He’s an all-time great defensive player in the regular season (three-time DPOY) whose limitations can be exposed in the playoffs on both ends, though not always through any fault of his own. Guarding the perimeter certainly is not his forte when teams go 5-out, but it doesn’t help him when the perimeter defense stinks, which can make him look bad. Offensively, he’s obviously limited because he can’t shoot and isn’t a great passer, but Jazz guards have had issues getting him the ball inside.
Making the situation more complicated is a five-year, $205 million contract that runs through 2025-26, with a player option on that final season that’s worth over $46 million. As good as Gobert is, paying that kind of money for a player who often becomes less impactful when it really matters is tough, especially when he’s about to turn 30.
When it comes to the Bulls, trading for Gobert would almost certainly make them better, at least in the regular season. Even if they traded Williams in a deal, a defensive trio of Gobert, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso is monstrous. Gobert is also a great rebounder, great screener and a threat as a roll man. Assuming Zach LaVine is back, a closing lineup of Ball, Caruso, LaVine, DeRozan and Gobert sounds pretty cool.
But, again, there are the concerns about the postseason and whether this would really be that much of an upgrade. Even with all the concerns about Vucevic’s defense and the Bulls having three offense-first stars, it was the offense that was atrocious against Milwaukee. LaVine not being himself and Ball being out hurt, but it was still especially ugly. While Gobert can do some nice things offensively, he would be a somewhat awkward fit with DeRozan and obviously wouldn’t help the shooting problem. There would also be a clear downgrade from Vucevic to Gobert on the playmaking front.
When you factor in that and his massive contract, is it worth giving up Williams, a potential two-way wing the Bulls could really use come playoff time? Williams still only being a theoretical impact player only makes the situation even more complicated. I’m not a huge believer in Williams myself right now, but you can at least see how he theoretically becomes a two-way stud because of his physical profile and through some of the flashes he has shown. Unfortunately, he’s hasn’t looked close to that yet, and the Bulls are trying to win now.
So, do the Bulls try to cash in more chips right now for a really good but also flawed and expensive player like Gobert? Or do they hold firm on Williams and try to either get a deal done another way or just make a different move instead? I really can’t see the Jazz trading a franchise cornerstone for something like Vooch/White/mediocre pick(s)/filler, but maybe Gobert’s value has cratered enough around the league that something like that gets it done. While that feels like real bad business for Utah, maybe the circumstances work out where the offers just aren’t that great. And though they could want to keep him in that scenario, perhaps that’s just not tenable. I have to imagine they would want at least one prime asset, though, and maybe even more.
I’m genuinely pretty torn on all this. If you can get a deal done without including Williams, I think the Bulls should do it. If Williams has to be involved, which I do think would ultimately be the case with perhaps even more still being needed ... I go back and forth. It’s not an easy call given where the Bulls are at, and the Jazz would actually have to agree as well and not get any better offers. It could just be a tough match.
There’s also the matter of whether the Bulls actually would want to have Gobert on his huge salary and then also pay LaVine a huge max, and then if they would properly spend to fill out the roster. They would obviously need to add a good amount of shooting (which was already needed), and hitting on the margins would become even more important.
Again, they could just look to make a different splash instead, or even run it back with this core while making key changes around it. This all makes for a rather interesting and somewhat polarizing debate. We’ll see if anything actually comes to fruition or if it’s just all talk.