Although the Chicago Bulls successfully executed their plan-B option by signing Pau Gasol, the team and its fan base have to be experiencing a sense of déjà vu after reports surfaced that their prime target in free agency–Carmelo Anthony–had decided to remain with the New York Knicks.
You see, four summers ago, the Bulls were hoping to acquire LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. And despite their best efforts, all three players decided to play for the Miami Heat, which forced the Bulls to settle for a consolation prize in Carlos Boozer.
Fast forward to present day, the Bulls failed to land their dream player in free agency once again, and they were left with no other choice but to go with the next best choice on their wish list. But rather than focusing on what may have been with regards to acquiring Anthony, let’s take a quick look at what Gasol will bring to the fold next season in comparison with his soon-to-be predecessor.
Although Boozer played reasonably well during his first three years in Chicago, he had his worst season as a Bull in 2013-14, scoring just 13.7 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds per contest while shooting a career-low 46 percent from the field. On the flip side of the coin, Gasol’s scoring and rebounding averages included 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 60 appearances for the Los Angeles Lakers last season.
Another area where Gasol is superior to Boozer is the passing game. Boozer recorded 2.9 assists per 100 possessions while Gasol registered 5.2 per 100 possessions and his average in this category has never been lower than 3.9.
In addition to that, the Lakers scored at a rate of 101.3 points per 100 possessions when Gasol was on the court, while the Bulls’ scoring efficiency was 97.7 per 100 possessions with Boozer on the court, per Josh Planos of the Washington Post.
With the ability to effectively play the pick-and-roll sets, along with a consistent mid-range game, Gasol will provide the Bulls with a player who is a capable of pulling the opposing team’s power forward away from the basket.
One of the knocks on Boozer was his inability to play defense. In fact, Tom Thibodeau opted to play the two-time All-Star forward in just the first and third quarters of most of the games during the second half of the season due to his deficiencies on the defensive end, which resulted in Boozer recording his lowest per-game minutes average (28.2) since his 2002-03 rookie season.
While Gasol is not a great one-on-one defender, he is a better team defender and he is a presence around the rim–something that Boozer never managed to accomplish during the past four seasons. In fact, Gasol has recorded 1,484 blocks in his career compared to Boozer’s 336. Needless to say, Gasol is definitely an upgrade in this capacity.
As good as the core of Boozer, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson has been, they have made it to the conference finals only once since Thibodeau arrived in Chicago. Meanwhile, Gasol has been to three conference finals and has two championships on his resume.
And in the last Finals game he played in, Gasol recorded 19 points and 18 rebounds to help the Lakers edge the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. That being said, he knows a little something about what it takes to win on the league’s biggest stage.
Some Bulls fans may view the Gasol signing as another consolation prize. And after all, who could blame them? The organization does not have a history of landing the elite free agents and it failed to do so this time around as well.
However, while Gasol does not turn the Bulls into a title contender, he does give the team another reliable scorer who can be a presence on both ends of the floor. And most importantly, barring any injuries, the Bulls will be a better team next season with Gasol in the starting lineup.
James Tillman is a Staff Writer for HoopsHabit.com and a sports contributor for Football Nation and Sports Kings/Pass The Pill. James is also a former Featured Sports Contributor for Yahoo! Contributor Network.