Gobert's huge contract, flawed game is poor fit for Bulls

A clear trend has developed when it comes to big men and the NBA playoffs.

Starting in the Finals is Boston's Robert Williams, the No. 28 overall draft pick in 2018, and Golden State's Kevon Looney, the 30th pick in 2015.

Drop back to the conference finals and add Miami's Bam Adebayo and Dallas' Dwight Powell, both mid-first round picks. Centers were the top two vote-getters for MVP, but neither Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid made it past the second round.

The point is, while interior defense is important and physicality is important, the NBA is still a shooter's league. That's relevant when examining rumors of the Bulls trading for Utah center Rudy Gobert.

Gobert's resume speaks for itself: He's a three-time defensive player of the year and three-time all-star. But he's not the piece that will lead the Bulls to a championship.

Gobert to the Bulls makes no sense and the rumors may just be wishful thinking on somebody's part - probably Utah's - because the 7-foot-1 native of France is maxed out. He's owed $38.2 million next year and tops off at $46.7 million in 2025-26.

That's roughly the same-sized contract Zach LaVine would get if the Bulls paid him the max. An NBA team should expect a player making that much money to lead it to the Finals, and neither Gobert nor LaVine has shown much promise in that department so far.

Utah's first-round playoff loss to Dallas put many of the concerns with Gobert on display. He has a hard time guarding anyone outside the paint, so teams often sent everyone to the 3-point line. That would force Gobert to the perimeter to challenge long-range shots, leaving him vulnerable to getting beat on the dribble and unable to protect the basket.

Then he's not a great free-throw shooter (career 60.4% in the playoffs) and he doesn't finish well in traffic because he can get knocked off balance so easily.

The Jazz had plenty of other issues in that series, mainly the supporting cast. Utah missed Joe Ingles, who tore his ACL earlier in the season; Royce O'Neal didn't contribute much and Mike Conley is slowing down at 34.

Utah could probably stay competitive with Donovan Mitchell and Gobert as the main guys. But it's tough to change out the supporting cast with so many big contracts on the payroll.

Arturas Karnisovas has his work cut out trying to push the Bulls to the next level, because he's had to make up for so many past mistakes. An ironic part of the Bulls' rebuild is they were ahead of the NBA trend back in 2017-18 with three perimiter-shooting big men in Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic.

The Bulls traded all three without getting much in return. Rather than try to build off the 14-7 stretch that group helped create, they shut it down in order to get a higher draft pick.

There's no obvious move that will make the Bulls a Finals contender. They need to improve the interior defense and center Nikola Vucevic is heading into the last year of his contract, so they'll be able to take a new direction with the center position. A good place to start would be with the No. 18 pick in the June 23 NBA Draft, if any Looney or Williams prototypes are available.

But adding a flawed player on a huge contract when LaVine is already a free agent is not the move. Neither is trading Patrick Williams for a player like Gobert. There's no guarantee Williams will be a star, but his unknown potential is the Bulls' best hope right now.

Twiter: @McGrawDHSports

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