Kurt Helin

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Report: Pau Gasol officially tells Bulls he’s opting out. Shocking, I know.

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This is about as big a surprise as Beyoncé knocking it out of the park at the BET Awards. Like you expected anything else.

Pau Gasol, after a season of being frustrated with the Bulls, their direction, and their new coach, has opted out and will be a free agent, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Bulls are losing Gasol and Joakim Noah, and they are considering trading Taj Gibson. They have a front line to rebuild during free agency.

Gasol will have options, and that includes the New York Knicks and Phil Jackson, who are said to be interested (and are in need of a center after moving Robin Lopez in the Derrick Rose trade). The Spurs also reportedly are interested.

Gasol put up numbers for the Bulls — 16.5 points and 11 rebounds a game — but the question becomes what kind of decline in production can be expected from a 36-year-old. He still has great post moves, he can still pass, he is still high IQ, and he is still fairly efficient on offense. However, he’s a liability at the defensive end.

Gasol needs to balance his desire to win another ring with where he wants to live (Gasol likes large, metropolitan cities). And, of course, there is the money factor.

About the only thing we can say for sure about Gasol’s free agency is that there is no way he’s going back to the Bulls.

Sounds like Kevin Durant may at least meet with Knicks

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It’s a long shot that Kevin Durant signs with the Knicks. Like Donald Trump carries Massachusetts in the general election long shot.

But maybe they are at least going to get in the room with him and make their pitch.

Ian Begley of ESPN has this quote from Kevin Durant.

There is nothing definitive in that quote, but it sounds like he’s willing to listen to what Phil Jackson is selling. We know that Carmelo Anthony is selling KD on New York. Apparently Durant likes the Derrick Rose trade a little more than I do for the Knicks. It’s an upgrade at the point, but there are a lot of questions about ball movement, health, defense, and more the Knicks have to answer.

The Thunder are considered the front-runners to retain Durant’s services. It’s been the sense around the league that if KD goes elsewhere Golden State is at the front of the line. After that, the Spurs, Clippers, Heat, and Celtics are all getting meetings.

The Knicks, even with Rose, come in after that. But at least if they get a meeting Jackson can say he got his foot in the door. Which is more than the Lakers and Wizards have gotten.

NBC’s Free Agency preview: Top 5 point guards

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Point guard is becoming more and more like quarterbacks in the NFL — you’ve got to have a quality one to be a real threat. Look at the points for the final four teams in the NBA Playoffs this year: Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kyle Lowry.

The problem for teams in need of a good (or at least solid) one is 2016 is a very thin point guard free agent class. There is one elite, All-Star level guy at the top and after that things fall off quickly. Here are the top five point guards available on the market this year, ranked in order of preference.

1) Mike Conley, unrestricted. He is one of the better defensive point guards in the league, a quality floor general, he’s good at running the pick and roll, scored 15 points with six assists a game, and he has three-point range. If he hadn’t been in a West overly stacked with great point guards, he’d have been an All-Star already. A lot of teams have interest in him, but the buzz around the league is that he is going to re-sign a five-year max deal with the Grizzlies. Look at it this way, there is no way the Knicks make the Derrick Rose trade if they thought they could land Conley (a known target of theirs). If he does open the door to other teams, a lot of them will be interested.

2) Jordan Clarkson, restricted. Some team may try to poach the young guard from the Lakers. They will fail, the Lakers will match, but teams will try. Clarkson is a combo guard who can play next to D'Angelo Russell and run the team when he sits. He’s a big-bodied guard who can get into the lane — although settles for too many pull-up jumpers — and can knock down the three (34.7 percent last year and improving). There’s a lot to like for a guard who can be part of the rotation for many years. The question is what team will come in with the big offer for Clarkson that forces the Lakers to pony up? He’s listed in front of the guys below in part because he’s younger.

3) Jeremy Lin, unrestricted. The first guy teams looking for a point guard have a real shot to land, as it will be difficult for Charlotte to keep him with their focus on re-signing Nicolas Batum. He wants to get paid after having to take a pay cut with Charlotte after a rough season in Los Angeles before that. His stats didn’t change much in Charlotte — 11.7 points and three assists per game — however, he had the ball in his hands more in a sixth many role than in Houston or Los Angeles, which allowed him to play to his strengths of attacking and creating. His defense isn’t good but it’s improved. He just looked more comfortable.

4) Rajon Rondo, unrestricted. He put up 11.9 points and 11.7 assists in Sacramento last season, and he was DeMarcus Cousins‘ best friend in the locker room. But there was a feeling around the Kings that he was chasing stats, and beyond that his once lock-down defense isn’t what it once was. If a team could get him to accept a reserve role for 20ish minutes a night it would be a great fit, but that’s not how Rondo sees himself. A lot of buzz about him landing in Brooklyn (where he would start), but how much are they willing to pay? And how many years?

5) Deron Williams, unrestricted. At this point, he’s a solid veteran point guard, one who averaged 14.1 points and 5.8 assists a game for the Mavericks last season. He’ll give a team a solid 28-30 minutes a night. He is expected to re-sign with Dallas, but another team in need of a point which strikes out elsewhere could come in with a surprise offer and try to steal him from the Mavs.

Other names of note: Matthew Dellavedova (he almost got the fifth spot, he is younger than D-Will and that matters), Tyler Johnson (restricted), Ty Lawson, Mario Chalmers, Raymond Felton, D.J. Augustin, Langston Galloway (restricted).

Jamal Crawford tweets: “About that time for a # change”

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There seems to be more demand and value for the services of Jamal Crawford — the three-time Sixth Man of the Year — outside the Los Angeles Clippers than inside that front office. Doc Rivers has said he plans to keep the core of the Clippers together for next season, but Crawford may be the guy he’s not willing to pay to keep.

Don’t take my word for it, here is what Crawford himself tweeted Sunday.

I don’t think he was talking about Beyoncé at the BET Music Awards.

Crawford still has value on the court. He has one of the best crossovers in the game, a streaky jump shot, he scored 14 points a game last season, racking up a lot of those points thanks to his love of pull-up jumpers. However, at age 36 he is showing declining efficiency at age 36, and he is not a good defender.

Rivers may want to keep him — he did have the ball in his hands with the second unit a lot when Chris Paul rested — but not at the price tag other teams are willing to pay. We will get a sense of what those numbers are — and what teams will pay them — when free agency tips off Friday.

Report: Bulls testing trade market for Taj Gibson

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Pau Gasol is not coming back to the Chicago Bulls next season. Joakim Noah is not coming back to the Chicago Bulls.

Taj Gibson may be on his way out, too.

The Bulls are testing the trade market for Gibson, reports Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.

To add some further clouds to the Bulls frontcourt rotation, a league source said that the Bulls have been talking to several teams about the possibility of moving Taj Gibson. The power forward is in the final year of his contract, scheduled to make $8.9 million.

If they do in fact send Gibson elsewhere, that would leave a frontcourt of Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio, and some serious money to spend.

The Bulls are going into a retooling mode, keeping Jimmy Butler saves it from being a full rebuild. Gibson may be the best trade piece they have outside Butler — he is a rock solid defender, provides rim protection, doesn’t score a lot but plays within himself and is efficient in putting up points. Plus with that contract, a lot of playoff and contending teams will have interest.

The question is who would the Bulls get back? Young players that fit better into coach Fred Hoiberg’s system ideally. The market should be fairly robust for Gibson.

The Bulls are going to take a step back this coming season, but hopefully start to develop a team identity around Butler and Hoiberg. They need to go after free agents that can fit into that system and guys they can take risks with.

It’s going to take time, but we’ll see if the Gar/Forman front office can execute that vision.