Why the Bulls won the Jimmy Butler trade
Let’s take a trip back to NBA Draft night, June 22nd, 2017.
The night we saw Lonzo Ball become a Laker just as the prophet LaVar Ball predicted. We saw the Celtics and Sixers swap first round picks just days prior to ensure both teams “get their guy”. We also saw the end of an era in Chicago with Jimmy Butler being dealt to the Timberwolves and reunited with his beloved coach Tom Thibodeau.
Let’s talk about why the Bulls WON this trade.
There comes a point where certain teams have a guy headed towards superstar level while the team is headed nowhere in a hurry - nowhere being a perennial playoff team that doesn’t necessarily belong there. Good enough to make it because their best player could carry the load, sure, but bad enough to be first round exits because they aren’t equipped for the marathon.
Those same wins that land bad teams in the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed ultimately doom them on draft night. They aren’t picking high enough to draft the ‘cream of the crop’, so they’re forced to roll the dice on a prospect. Obviously there are no sure things in sports no matter where you’re drafted, but you need the best available player when you’re thin on talent. Now if you’re a young team like the Sixers or even the Bucks, making the playoffs with no real chance at the title at least gives you hope for what the future holds. When you’re an established team like the Bulls whose playoff seeding is more of a fall from grace than a stepping stone, it’s time to make changes.
In a vacuum, the package of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the 7th overall pick, which would become Lauri Bir-..I mean Markkanen, seems a bit low, right?
Not if you think about this in totality.
Usually once a superstar-level player reaches the last two years of his deal, the vultures start to circle. Other teams know this is the shit or get off the pot moment for your franchise and you’ll either accept whatever they offer or they’ll wait you out. In essence, whatever they offer will be too much on their end.
You’ll NEVER receive equal value for an established superstar. Think about it, a sure thing will always be safer than a ‘maybe’. It’s a results based, hindsight is 20/20, blah blah scenario every time. Ask the Hornets about Vlade and Kobe. However, if the pieces you receive are what’s best for YOUR future, then you’ve won. Think Oladipo/Sabonis for Paul George.
You hold on to that superstar player to avoid “looking” like you got fleeced, then lose him in free agency and remove all doubt that the fleecing occurred.
This deal was on the table a year prior, but the Bulls were still determined to wait and see if the Jimmy Butler experience was worth it all. To see if he would regress, or grow to be the player you could build around or trade while his stock was high to get more pieces. The latter occurred and in a surprising turn of events.....GarPax actually made a good decision. I still can’t believe I typed that...and it’s true.
Kris Dunn, a former top 5 pick in the draft, was never given a fair shake in Minnesota. We all know Thibs doesn’t play rookies, which isn’t a foreign concept by established coaches. When you’re hired to produce right away, it doesn’t behoove you to bet on potential. So, on the surface it looks like “Dunn couldn’t beat out Rubio for the starting job” when in reality it was never his job to actually ‘win’ because he was still learning.
In reality he’s a much better passer, scorer, and all around player than he was given credit for. He’s averaging 13.4 points per game and 6 assists in just 31 games with the Chicago Bulls, up over his 3.8 points and 2.4 assists in 78 games with Minnesota.
Zach LaVine, a former NBA dunk contest champion, is an incredible athlete. Before suffering a torn ACL in February of 2017, he showed tremendous upside and that he wasn’t just a dunker. He’s a career 37.9% shooter from 3 point range and averages 13.7 points per game. Obviously time will tell what kind of player he’ll be once he returns, but by all accounts he’s rehabbing great and should be back to normal soon.
Lauri Markkanen, who I’ve named Lauri Bird, is the most interesting player of the bunch. There was similar reaction to the Bulls drafting Lauri with the 7th pick as there was when the Knicks chose Kristaps Porzingis in 2015: a sea of boos and “who the fuck is this ass hole?” like Samuel L. Jackson in McDowell’s. Whenever you don’t take the flashy, prom king, golden boy of the moment on everyone’s radar you’re going to be met with criticism. Understandably so, because for every Dirk there’s a Darko.
Lauri is special though. He shot the lights out at Arizona and was called the best shooting 7-footer college basketball had ever seen, averaging 15.6PPG and 7.2RPG all while rocking the number 10 like Mike Bibby. In his rookie season so far he’s opened a lot of eyes and gained respect from those who once doubted. Did I mention he’s ONLY 20? (Jay-Z voice at Hot97 with Young Chris). He’s averaging 14.6PPG and 7.4RPG on the pro level, and is showing tremendous potential to be a franchise player.
I had to talk a few fellow Bulls fans off the ledge when this trade went down, and now they’re all on the edge of their seats for this team. The future is bright and we have something that not even GarPax could ru...let me stop there before they ask me to hold their beer and show me.
Bottom line is, I knew we won this trade the night it happened and now the world sees it. Now if they could only stop disrupting this tank so we can draft even higher and secure the Bagley, I’d be even happier...but that’s another story.