After months years of Jimmy Butler trade rumors, the Chicago have officially traded him to the Minnesotta Timberwolves. The trade was announced yesterday before the draft, with Bulls sending Butler and the 16th overall pick to the Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, the rights to Lauri Markannen (7th overall pick) and a $15.3 million trade exception.
In short: it was a great trade if you’re a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
If there’s anything positive to take away from this, it’s that Bulls management (Gar Forman and John Paxson, collectively known as “GarPax”) appears to have finally settled on a direction for the franchise. Unfortunately, it means they’re going into tank mode.
GarPax held a press conference
last night after the draft. Paxson told reporters the team had “set a direction”, saying “In the past, we’ve gone to the playoffs but not to the level we wanted to. We decided to make the change.”
So, for those who are confused about this: Why would the Bulls want to get rid of a top 15 player who’s said he wants to stay with the team? Well, it may seem crazy, but there are a lot of Bulls fans who have been pushing for the team to trade Butler and start a rebuild for a while now. For one thing, depending on his performance next year, Butler would’ve been eligible for a “super-max” extension in 2019. That means he would’ve stood to make over $200 million if he stayed in Chicago. It’s a great deal if you’re Jimmy Butler; on the other hand, if you’re a team who don’t see him as a reliable number one option, you’re better off trading him.
That explain that explains trading Butler in general, but why make this particular trade? Well, GarPax claim this was the best offer available. Obviously, there’s no way of knowing if that’s true, but there were also no clear options for building around Butler, either.
Before the trade, there were rumors that the team might sign Milos Teodosic or Kyle Lowry; or possibly for Patrick Beverly, who’s looking to get out of Houston. While I love Beverly, none of those options gave Chicago a real competitive edge moving forward. With no guarantee for a high level performance going forward, Chicago went into tank mode.
So what does this mean? Well, if you’re a fan of good basketball, it means you probably shouldn’t watch a Chicago game for the next couple years.
Of course, Even if you were a fan of tanking, you have to question this trade: LaVine is currently recovering from a career-threatening injury and, although Chicago was very high on Kris Dunn last year (top 5 overall pick), he had a terrible season in Minnesota.
Though Markannen might be a good player in the NBA, it seems like the team player it very safe for an organization heading in this direction. They left Malik Monk and Dennis Smith Jr on the board, and flipped their second round pick (Jordan Bell) to Golden State for cash considerations. The team seems to be making conservative moves even though they have nothing left to lose. Maybe this was the right move and everyone in charge knows exactly what they’re doing, but we’re talking about John Paxson. This is the guy who hired Vinny Del Negro, then tried to choke him out in a hallway a year later. So, right or wrong, it’s understandable when some fans question his decision making
That brings us to the strangest part of this whole thing is: If you’re GarPax, it really seems like you just signed your own death warrant. The pro-tank guys already hated them, now the anti-tank guys definitely hate them and, after a month of watching this new team, casual fans will probably hate them the most.
If it was any other team, I’d expect both John Paxson and Gar Forman to be gone by the end of the year; but it’s the Bulls, so we’ll probably just hire a couple more of their relatives.
As for the rest of the team: we’re now stuck with Dwyane Wade, who just opted into his contract and has stated publicly that he has no interest in rebuilding. Of course, it’s not worst asset for them to have; at the very least, Wade helps the Bulls reach the NBA’s salary floor. Of course, Wade’s biggest value could be that he’s on an expiring contract.
If the team is tanking, the next move for Chicago is to try and take on bad contracts in exchange for their future draft picks. For example, if a team like the Knicks wants to move Noah contract and is willing to give up a future first round pick with it, Wade could help facilitate that move. Robin Lopez’s contract might also have some trade value.
Having said all of that, there’s still a huge chance that the Bulls could [—-] it all up.
[Photo via YouTube.com]