James Gordon | June 22, 2017
After one of the more depressing seasons in recent Bulls history, this year’s draft had proven to be something to look forward to with plenty of young and athletic talent available for the Bulls’ number 16 pick in the first round. Not only was this draft an opportunity for the Bulls to accumulate young talent from the collegiate level, but with tons of trade rumors swirling around the league, including rumors about a potential Jimmy Butler trade, the draft had proven to be an opportunity to acquire young talent through trade. Teams have been on Butler’s track since last year’s draft when a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves seemed almost inevitable, but they decided to pass on him for the time-being.
With more teams trying to find that last piece to contend either within their conference or against the Golden State Warriors (I think we know what team that would be), Jimmy Butler appeared to be that one piece through the eyes of teams including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, and the T-wolves. With Phoenix and Denver appearing to get in trade talks with each other, the Bulls’ trade partners were narrowed down to Boston, Cleveland, and Minnesota. Obviously, Cleveland lacks the kind of young pieces that Boston and Minnesota have, so they were pretty much out of the Butler sweepstakes. The race for Butler was down to the Celtics and Wolves, the former in dire need of a Butler-type player to try and win over the Eastern Conference, and the latter needing Butler to complete what could be one of the more threatening teams in the Western Conference.
In a potential deal with Boston, the Bulls had their eyes set on the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, but the Celtics refused to budge. As for Minnesota, it appeared that the Bulls were interested in their first-round pick (No. 7) along with T-wolves sophomore Kris Dunn, as a starting point. At the end of the day, it was the Timberwolves who had completed a deal with the Bulls, except the result wasn’t so promising.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 22, 2017
The Bulls did get what they wanted, but sadly, this may go down in the books as one of the not-so-great trades in Bulls history.
Obviously, it’s hard to see this Bulls team ever winning a championship with Jimmy Butler, so he had to go either way. I do like the move with the idea of acquiring young talent, but had the Bulls traded for any other young player the Wolves had, I would feel much better about the trade. The headline in last year’s potential Butler-to-Minnesota trade was Kris Dunn, who the Bulls ended up getting, but in all honesty, he may just end up being a bust. In his debut year in the NBA, Dunn averaged 3.8 PPG and 2.4 APG while sinking only 37.7% of his field goal attempts. What’s funny is that the Bulls had seen Dunn’s sub-par performance in his rookie season and were still head-on in trying to trade for him. As hopeful as I am that he can turn it around and become a franchise cornerstone in Chicago, it’s difficult to imagine that happening after last year’s performance.
If I had seen that the Bulls traded for Zach LaVine last year, I would probably be extremely excited (who wouldn’t), but this year is a different story. After having a fantastic season through 47 games (18.9 PPG, 45.9 FG%), LaVine, unfortunately, tore the ACL in his left leg, ultimately ending his season. The thing with ACL tears is that players who suffer the injury might not be the same players as they were prior to the injury. Some examples of this include former Bull Derrick Rose, whose MVP performance was never seen again following his ACL tear. The same goes for Al Jefferson, whose performance decreased between the time of the injury, although the decline wasn’t as drastic as Rose’s. However, there have been some players who overcame an ACL injury and almost seemed to improve after their recovery. A great example of this is Kyle Lowry, who tore his ACL back in 2004 during his time at Villanova. Ever since he recovered, he appeared to only get better each year. He eventually would go on to become a three-time all-star with the Toronto Raptors, and he’s showing no sign of slowing down. I know I’m making it sound like there’s a 50/50 chance that LaVine could recover and continue to play basketball at the same level as he has, but players who suffer injuries like this usually make speedy and clean recoveries and have little to no problems getting back onto the hardwood and performing at the professional level. As long as LaVine comes back without an issue, I see him as the shining star of this package.
The third and final piece of the Wolves package in this trade to Chicago is the rights to the 7th overall pick in the draft. With Minnesota choosing the player the Bulls would get, they picked Lauri Markkanen, a freshman out of the University of Arizona. Now, this pick has me extremely upset, as much better draft prospects were still on the board at the time of the pick. By picking Markkanen, the Bulls missed out on the likes of Zach Collins, Malik Monk, and Luke Kennard, all who were seen as much better selections than Markkanen. What makes the pick even worse are the comparisons that Markkanen draws. His projected comparisons are other shooter-heavy power forwards like Niko Mirotic, Ryan Anderson, and Channing Frye. What I get from those comparisons is that he will likely find himself on the bench for most of his career and will likely have no effect in the Bulls’ young rebuild.
After taking a look at what the Bulls got, you may think “Okay, this wasn’t that bad of a trade, considering the Bulls gave up Jimmy Butler for young talent. That’s exactly what they wanted, right?” Well let me tell you, I probably would think the same thing except the Bulls didn’t just trade Jimmy Butler alone. They also made the mindless move to send the No. 16 pick in the draft to Minnesota as well. I thought the point of a rebuild is to accumulate as much young and sustainable talent as possible. Trading draft picks is the exact opposite move a team in the rebuilding phase wants to make. I honestly don’t know what John Paxson was thinking. My idea of why this occurred is that this may have been the best deal the Bulls could have gotten. The deal probably would have not been made had the Bulls refused to give up the No. 16 overall pick. I wonder if the Bulls wouldn’t have run into this situation had they traded Butler to the Celtics during the trade deadline when Boston was super desperate to become the kings of the East. But no, I know Jerry Reinsdorf just loves getting that extra revenue from making the playoffs, despite being clobbered by Boston in the first round. The Bulls were just delaying the inevitable and ended up getting a worse deal because of it. That’s exactly what I expect from the same team that uses the rest of its cap space to sign an elderly Dwyane Wade whose knees are currently being held together by paper clips.
Perhaps in the second round, the Bulls could redeem their shortcomings from the first round of the draft, but they do exactly the opposite. With the 38th overall pick, the Bulls had selected Jordan Bell, a junior out of Oregon University, only to sell him to the Warriors for $3.5 million. Once again, isn’t the key component to rebuilding to acquire as much young talent as possible? In this case, the Bulls gave up Bell, who had a solid junior season with the Ducks, for cash. Not the best move in my honest opinion, but it’s just the way that the GarPax machine runs things.
At the end of the day, I’m just glad the Bulls finally entered the rebuilding phase, even though they kind of got swindled in the first step of it. Had the Bulls just hung onto Butler as he reaches the “old” age of 30, his superstar talent would turn out to be a complete waste. Like I said before, there’s no way in heck the Bulls would win a championship with Jimmy Butler, as long as LeBron James continues to terrorize the East. Being a fan of the White Sox, who are half a season into their own rebuild, I know what it’s like to deal with a loss of superstar (in this case even Hall of Fame) talent when the Sox traded ace pitcher Chris Sale. Obviously, a rebuild will take longer in basketball than in baseball with draft picks being more obsolete in the NBA than in MLB, but it’s still a similar process. I just hope the Bulls can hire someone competent in the front office rather than Gar Forman and John Paxson. Let me assure you that when those two are out of office, the Bulls will automatically be in a much better place. Let’s just hope it happens sooner than later.