In a June 8 column, Gottlieb urged the Bulls to trade Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams to the Utah Jazz for Rudy Gobert. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, Chicago is interested in trading for the $205 million All-Star.
“Gobert is not Luka Doncic or one of the league’s offensive engines. But this is not a Jerami Grant situation either. Gobert is one of the league’s few defensive systems. He’s one of the best in NBA history, named to Defensive First Team each of the last six years and he was Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, 2019 and 2021,” Gottlieb wrote. “The Bulls were a top-10 defense the first part of the year when Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso were healthy. Add Gobert to the mix and they could easily land in the top-3 to 5.
“Gobert is top five in Defensive EPM and first in defensive RAPTOR. He’s second in the NBA in defensive rating, first in defensive and total rebounding percentage, and fifth in block percentage. His defensive on/off is in the 96th percentile, and he holds opponents to a league-leading 6.9 percent below their average when he is the closest defender.”
Gobert, 29, signed a five-year, $205 million deal with the Jazz in December 2020. His future in Utah is up in the air after head coach Quin Snyder stepped down from his position on June 5. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year averaged 15.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 2021-22.
Gottlieb: Gobert Unlocks Higher Ceiling for Bulls
Gottlieb believes Gobert would unlock a higher ceiling for Chicago.
“If Gobert was an offensive star instead of a defensive one, this would not even be a discussion. The way he impacts the game on the defensive end would immediately vault the Bulls in the running for top three in the East,” Gottlieb wrote. “They’d still have to fill out the roster with shooting, but you’re essentially flipping Vucevic and the idea of Williams for the league’s best rim protector. Again, it comes back to the idea that the Bulls should be aggressive in trying to improve in creative ways. Gobert turns arguably the Bulls biggest weakness into a point of strength.”
The Bulls allowed the fourth-most field goals inside of five feet and the ninth-most paint points in 2021-22. Gobert, who has made six All-Defensive teams and four All-NBA teams during his career, projects to be a good fit in Chicago alongside All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine since he can protect the basket and rebound at an elite level.
Gottlieb: Bulls Have to Ask Themselves a Question
Gottlieb believes the Bulls have to ask themselves a question this summer. The CHGO insider is of the firm belief that adding Gobert and parting ways with Vucevic and Williams is the right choice for Chicago.
“This is by no means a perfect trade, but no trade is perfect,” Gottlieb wrote. “The Bulls have flaws now and they’d still have some if they traded for Gobert. So ultimately, it comes down to the following cost-benefit analysis: Which is more valuable? Williams’ potential to become an All-Star, Vucevic’s versatility and the flexibility to have a slightly more defined long-term future or Gobert’s ability to elevate the Bulls to a higher level during the window of contention that is DeRozan’s prime?
“It’s a risk, but I lean towards the Gobert side. Typically, I stray away from pure rim roller/protector types as they are more replaceable than wing positions, but Gobert is the exception. He is truly a superstar at what he does and I’d rather go down swinging.”