The 30-year-old center needs to undergo surgery on his left shoulder and will miss four to six months, ending his 2015-16 season. Joakim Noah is slated for unrestricted free agency this summer and will most likely leave. A breakup between he and the Bulls has, in theory, been brewing since new head coach Fred Hoiberg marginalized his role.
But because Noah was considered a lock to leave, Chicago, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, was trying to move him:
Intriguing to see how Noah injury impacts Bulls before Feb. 18 trade deadline. Most rival execs say Jo is the big CHI most wanted to trade
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 18, 2016
This could very well mean nothing. Noah is done and Hoiberg doesn’t have to worry about incorporating him into the rotation. But the Bulls still need help on the wing, and their most expendable trade assets still play in the frontcourt.
Pau Gasol is on the wrong end of 35 and will most likely enter free agency in July. Taj Gibson has a reasonably priced year left on his deal but isn’t the type of big who fits the offense Hoiberg is still trying to install.
Moving Gasol would be the preferable option, since he’s older and will command another investment at season’s end. But the market for 35-year-old flight risks isn’t hypercompetitive. Dangling Joakim Noah’s expiring deal was a stretch as it was. If the Bulls are looking to make a high-impact acquisition, it’s probably going to take Gibson or both Gibson and Gasol to get it done.