After years of rumor and speculation, the Chicago Bulls have finally traded power forward Taj Gibson.
In a deal struck moments before the closing of the trade deadline elapsed, the Bulls agreed to send Gibson, third-year forward Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick to the Oklahmoma City Thunder in exchange for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow, according to The Vertical‘s Shams Charania.
Gibson, an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017, was unlikely to form part of the Bulls’ free agency plans and was always a prime candidate to be moved at the deadline. Initially holding out for a first-round pick for the eight-year veteran, the Bulls settled for a package largely centered around moving their current starting power forward in hopes of finding their next point guard solution. Here’s how the grades shake out.
Thunder RECEIVE: Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, 2018 second-round pick
Thunder SEND: Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, Joffrey Lauvergne
Aside from the Pelicans stealing DeMarcus Cousins from the Kings, this individual deal may prove to bring the most value.
The Thunder have increased their strengths by bringing in Gibson, a strong offensive rebounder and versatile defender who will help solidify existing strengths. A capable scorer on the block or as a shooting option in pick-and-pop sets, Gibson will fit seamlessly next to Russell Westbrook on offense and will be a bolster an already bruising Oklahoma City frontcourt.
Doug McDermott will also benefit greatly from sharing the floor with Westbrook, who ranks third in the league in points created off assists. McDermott, a career 39.9 percent three-point shooter, will give the Thunder the shooting option they’ve desperately craved, all while doing so on a rookie-scale contract. As an outlet to Westbrook’s relentless dribble-drive game, McDermott’s catch-and-shoot ability will offer a new dimension to a Thunder offense which ranks 29th in three-point percentage.
And if that weren’t enough, for good measure, a 2018 second-round pick was thrown into the deal, which will be useful asset that can be included in future deals.
While losing Cameron Payne may hurt the Thunder’s point guard depth chart, the second-year guard was never going to reach his full potential playing behind Westbrook. Look for the Thunder to be players in the buyout market for a third-string point guard.
Bulls RECEIVE: Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, Joffrey Lauvergne
Bulls SEND: Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, 2018 second-round pick
It isn’t possible to win a trade when you’re the team giving up the best player in the deal (by a wide margin), whilst also sending out a future draft pick without any returning. That’s what the Bulls did, and it’s why they walk away from the deadline in a worse position than when they started.
If dealing Jimmy Butler and progressing down the rebuilding path wasn’t option for the Bulls, the only reasonable alternative was bettering the team for a run into the postseason. The Bulls failed to do so, having reduced their chance of of jumping above a .500 record and guaranteeing themselves a playoff berth.
On and off the floor, losing Gibson will be felt immediately. Outside of Butler, Gibson has been the Bulls’ most reliable player, averaging 11.6 points and seven rebounds in 55 games played this season. He was also one of the few players on the roster capable of being a factor on both sides of the ball.
McDermott’s departure also shouldn’t be understated. Though regressing from a strong sophomore season, McDermott — along with Gibson — was one of four Bulls players on the roster with a greater than league average true-shooting percentage, and lead the team in the three-point percentage.
Somehow, the Bulls — who rank 30th in three-point makes, attempts and percentage — undeniably just became an even worse shooting team than they already are.
That’s one perspective, but this deal wasn’t made with only this season in mind. After testing and rotating through Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams and Jerian Grant, the Bulls are still searching for their long-term solution at point guard. Payne will have a chance at this role, though it’s more likely he finds his place within the rotation next season than now.
While Payne has the potential to be a decent starting point guard in this league, the more likely scenario is he develops into a change-of-pace, energy-type point guard off the bench. And he will need to be if he’s incapable of ever improving his career 31.9 percent three-point shooting.
As a non-shooting threat, Payne will join the long list of point guards tincapable of fitting next to Jimmy Butler. Is this type of player worth dealing a starting power forward, a team’s best shooter and second-round pick? Hardly.
Lauvergne and Morrow shouldn’t be considered as anything more than throw ins who are unlikely to play any role for the Bulls this season. With their contracts expiring at season’s end, it’s unlikely either player will remain with the team into the future.
Gibson wasn’t part of the Bulls’ upcoming plans, nor will Lauvergne and Morrow factor into next season’s team. In essence, the deal is McDermott and second-round pick for Payne. At that level, the trade still isn’t a good one, and looks even worse when reminding yourself of the amount of assets moved to acquire McDermott via trade during the 2014 NBA Draft in the first place.
Just a bad day at the office for Bulls management.