Of course Joakim Noah says he wants to stay with the Bulls.
That’s all the veteran big man knows, even if the relationship with first-year head coach Fred Hoiberg has been less than smooth.
“I hope so,’’ Noah said on Tuesday, when asked if a return to Chicago was in his plans. “Right now I’m not trying to focus on the future. I just had season-ending surgery last week. But this is all I know. So I’m looking forward to see what the guys are doing … and then we’ll go from there.’’
What Noah says he wants, however, doesn’t really match-up with reality. First of all, even with season-ending shoulder surgery now on his resume, the boost in payroll for each team will make Noah attractive on the open market – at least a top 20 free agent.
Secondly, there isn’t a real fit for Noah in what Hoiberg wants to do with his offense, and the fact that Noah lost his starting job with the Bulls back in training camp really hasn’t been sitting well with the big man.
There’s just not a lot of staying power for Noah. The problem is there’s not a lot of staying power for a few others on this roster as well.
Frontcourt: Pau Gasol – Player option for $7.7 million for next season, Noah – Free agent, Taj Gibson – $8.9 million next season.
Gasol has already said that he will exercise the option and hit the free-agent market, as the two-time NBA champion has had enough of the Bulls. The team wasn’t as resilient as he thought it was on the outside looking in, and insiders have indicated that he wants to be on a contender with a veteran coach. Enjoy the next three-plus months of the Gasol experience, because it will be coming to an end.
The next move – With $13.4 million coming off the books with Noah, and then Gasol’s money freed up, the Bulls are looking at $21 million to rebuild the frontcourt. Unrestricted free agent Al Horford would be a great fit for Hoiberg’s up-tempo offense, and reminded the Bulls of that earlier this month when he dropped 33 points and 10 rebounds on them.
If the Bulls want to try and get really creative and move Gibson to free up even more money, Heat center Hassan Whiteside will be sitting out there in free agency, and would be an instant upgrade over Gasol as far as rim protector and athleticism.
Finally, if Mike Dunleavy’s back problems aren’t going away anytime soon, they may have to focus on that position in free agency, kicking the tires on a versatile, athletic small forward like Harrison Barnes, who Hoiberg knows well, growing up in Ames, Iowa.
Backcourt: Derrick Rose – Last year of contract is 2016-17 at $21.3 million
As much as the Bulls would love to move out from under the millions of dollars Rose is owed this year and next season, as well as avoid the circus that likely will be his free-agent season, it’s basically an unmovable contract.
The problem is Aaron Brooks, E’Twaun Moore and Kirk Hinrich are all free agents after this season. The Bulls had plans to draft a point guard last June, but when Bobby Portis fell to them plans changed.
The next move – Rose is here to stay for at least one more year, which means again shopping for cheap veteran help at the point. Mario Chalmers, Jeremey Lin and, heck, even Matthew Dellavedova will all fit what the Bulls need.