Pau Gasol is headed to the Chicago Bulls.
It hasn't been easy. After meditating it a lot I've chosen to play with the Chicago Bulls. Looking forward to this new chapter of my career
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) July 12, 2014
In these virgin stages, with fresh reports about Pau taking $6.5 million per year in order to once again compete for a championship, we can fantasize about an NBA entity we have yet to observe: an imaginative Tom Thibodeau offense.
Thibs’ Chicago tenure has been incredibly impressive overall, but so far his guiding hand has mostly affected the Bulls defensively. On the other end of the floor, Chiacgo has been mostly confined to Derrick Rose brilliance when Rose has been healthy, and very little when he hasn’t. Even as Joakim Noah emerged last season as a high post playmaking savant, the Bulls coughed and wheezed en route to the league’s 3rd worse offense. Their playoff series against the Wizards was a nightmare cocktail of D.J. Augustin suicide missions and brickedy pain.
Gasol can change that. Although past his prime, Pau is still an effective offense player. But more than that, he is conducive to creativity and motion. He duplicates Noah as a phenomenal high post passer, is respectable (if declining) from both the post and mid-range, and can be trusted making basketball decisions. If previous Bulls squads lacked non-Rose creators, Pau gives them yet another player who can actively seek the more passive scorers in Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell.
More than anything, though, Pau is a fun test for Thidodeau himself. Ever since Rose went down, recent Chicago offenses have leaned a bit too heavily towards decrying poor talent rather than utilizing the skills available on the roster. Luol Deng led outfits could conceivably max out at 20th rather than 28th, but that’s splitting hairs – in a league that usually requires legitimate contenders approach top 10 status on both sides. Heavy dependance on a given year’s diminutive backup point guard (Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin) is hardly a creative solution, but what is a Thibs to do?
With Rose once again poised for a return, Noah’s huge strides and Pau’s offensive arsenal, it seems a Thibs can do quite a bit. And that’s important for his long-term prospects. Thibs is hardly in danger of losing employment, but coaches who have won championships – which should be the goal – are rare and short on weaknesses. Amid concerns about over-extending players and peaking during regular season, this season is time for us to figure out if Thibs’ offensive playbook is a fatal flaw in his coaching acumen or simply a circumstantial part of basketball.