The breakup of the contender-era Chicago Bulls core is well and truly underway, as Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post reports that Joakim Noah is planning on heading eastward to join former teammate Derrick Rose in New York and sign for the Knicks. Here’s the Post:
Multiple sources have told The Washington Post that Noah will almost certainly be joining the New York Knicks after free agency begins, with a starting salary somewhere in the $18 million per year range.
Marc Stein chimed in and corroborated the Bontemps’ report that the Knicks were the heavy favorites.
Noah has reportedly been enamored with the idea of being a one-franchise player, but his discontent began before the season even started, when new coach Fred Hoiberg asked Noah to come off the bench. The Bulls wound up missing the playoffs and dissolving into a big mess. Jimmy Butler became the clear favorite of Hoiberg, and Noah struggled with injuries and his new role (he only played 29 games this season, and started two).
Noah will fit in well with the Knicks, and he is a perfect complement to Kristaps Porzingis. He allows Porzingis to guard power forwards, much like Robin Lopez did, and he offers more passing and dynamism to a team that played stodgy, congested basketball last year. Of course, playing Carmelo Anthony, Noah, and Porzingis presents a few problems of its own, and the team still needs some guards. Rose is not anyone’s savior.
As for the Bulls, it appears that Pau Gasol does not want to come back in free agency, and the team that had juggled too many big men looks like they’ll have a more manageable rotation next season. Taj Gibson is reportedly on the trading block, but Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez ensure that the team won’t have to completely rebuild its front court. They are firmly Jimmy Butler’s team now, and if Noah’s reported departure goes through, I don’t think the Bulls will trade Butler now unless they make a very serious pivot towards tearing the whole team down.