Jimmy Butler, along with 16th pick Justin Patton, was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves during the NBA Draft. In exchange the Chicago Bulls got Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and 7th pick Lauri Markkanen. People close to Butler are mad and Bulls fans should be furious about this trade. Even if anonymous sources remain high on the deal.
This is damn wrong.
The Bulls made this trade to either save money or stick a finger right in the eyes of their fans. Maybe both.
Zach LaVine is still on his rookie deal and the Bulls will have a team option on him next summer that will allow them to pay him $4.4 million. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler will be making $18.6 million in ’18-’19 which is a lot more than LaVine, but what a freaking bargain for one of the best two-way players in the NBA. The Celtics will probably be paying Isaiah Thomas $40 million that season.
Jimmy Butler will be 28 next season and he’s in the middle of his prime. He’s an All-Star, an All-NBA player, an All-NBA defender and a possible Hall of Famer. He averaged career highs in points (23.9), rebounds (6.2), assists (5.5) and PER (25.1) last season. He was 5th in the league in steals per game, 4th in minutes, 15th in defensive win shares, 10th in box plus/minus and 5th in VORP. Can you imagine anyone above him on that list (Westbrook, Harden, LeBron, Giannis) getting traded? OK, maybe Russ, but everyone in the world has conflicted feelings about him.
The point is, Jimmy Butler has become one of the best players in the league and the Bulls gave him up to save $15 million this season when they already have cap room.
Bulls fans could argue that LaVine is further along offensively in his 3rd season than Butler was in his. (Butler was a plus-defender. LaVine is not.) LaVine is younger, but he’s also a guy who relies on incredible athleticism and is coming off season-ending knee surgery on a torn ACL four months ago. By the time LaVine is all the way back from that injury he’ll be headed to free agency.
Then there’s Kris Dunn. 23-years old and the 5th pick in last year’s draft, he averaged 3.8 points, 2.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds on a lottery team in his rookie season. The Timberwolves finished 10 games out of the 8-seed and Dunn did nothing in the final months. And LaVine wasn’t even around to take playing time. The one positive for Dunn was that he managed a 10-point, 16-assist season finale against a Rockets team that had nothing to play for but still won. It was his 6th double-digit point output of the season and 6th time with more than 5 assists.
Still, perhaps the craziest part of the trade was the fact that it wasn’t just Butler for LaVine, Dunn and the 7th pick in the draft. The Bulls also threw in the 16th pick.
How in the heck did the Boston Celtics not randomly pick three better assets and get Butler? The only possible explanation is that the Bulls didn’t want to trade Butler to Boston. Unless Lauri Markkanen becomes a superstar, this was as bad a haul as you can get for a superstar. And they gave Butler back to Tom Thibodeau. Was this part of his severance package?
This was bad on every level. The only possible way to save this is to immediately cut Dwyane Wade and trade Robin Lopez and hope to hit the lottery in 2018. Maybe a few years after that Michael Porter will be as good as Jimmy Butler is right now. Until then, replace Philadelphia’s Trust the Process with Chicago’s Trust the Bulls—.