A Case for Trading Jimmy Butler

A Case for Trading Jimmy Butler
Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune Bulls forward Jimmy Butler looks toward his bench after hitting a basket against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half.

Jimmy Butler is in the midst of a phenomenal season--averaging 25.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He has continued to provide stellar defense, he's a lock for the All Star game, and has singlehandedly dragged the Bulls to a number of wins. With a true star like Butler, you would expect a team to be fighting for home court in the playoffs, not struggling to stay around .500.

The Bulls are currently fighting just to take one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots, and are just about devoid of both young talent, and attractive trade pieces. Taj Gibson would be a nice piece for a contender, but his contract expiring limits what teams would give up for him as a rental. Robin Lopez is a useful player on a good contract but it's a buyers market for big men right now. That's pretty much it, except for Jimmy. He has the talent to be a franchise cornerstone and is still just twenty-seven years old. There were rumors over the summer that the Bulls were shopping him--including on draft day, but obviously nothing came to fruition. Then yesterday Ric Bucher reported that once again, the Bulls are open to trading him and moving on. While I'd certainly have no problem with holding onto him, and committing to building a team around him starting in the offseason--I'm going to make the case for why the Bulls should be shopping him.

I touched on one aspect of it in that last paragraph; the Bulls do not *need* to trade Butler. At his age, if the Bulls draft well over the next couple of years, make smart moves in free agency, and explore the trade market to build a team to compliment his play, they can become contenders in the East again. Outside of Butler, Robin Lopez is the only player with a contract guaranteed for the 2018-2019 season. That means the Bulls would have room to add multiple max deals over that time frame. That gets tricky because the next two years of free agent classes are pretty weak outside of guys expected to resign with their current teams, and again the Bulls currently lack many appealing assets to give up should a star player hit the market. But the possibility is there, which means keeping Jimmy is still a very good option.

Since trading Butler is not necessary, Gar Forman and John Paxson can afford to listen to all offers and only accept ones that truly make it worth it for the Bulls to part with their star. They don't have to sell him for 75 cents on the dollar. With that in mind I'm going to look at a couple of teams that have been rumored to be asking about Butler, and a couple of others who I think are intriguing.

Team 1: Boston Celtics

The Celtics are one team that gets mentioned every time a star becomes available. They're the opposite of the Bulls, in the sense that they're a good team while also having real assets to move to acquire another star. Any trade the Bulls make should involve at least one first round pick, and a lottery pick at that, alongside young talent. From the Celtics that could be something like this:

Bulls get: Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, 2017 1st round pick (BKN)

Celtics get: Jimmy Butler

The Bulls shouldn't even listen to any offer from Boston that doesn't include the Brooklyn pick. When teams have to move on from a star, the worst thing they can do is take back an assortment of solid players, as opposed to either a high pick or a young potential star already under contract. The Brooklyn pick-- which will surely be in the high lottery, and is unprotected, would represent that. Brown is an intriguing young talent, he taken 3rd overall in last year's draft. He's a phenomenal athlete with a lot of upside, but had trouble scoring efficiently at the college level. Crowder is a very useful player who provides versatility on both ends of the floor, and at 26, is still young enough to be around for the next contending Bulls team. Rozier is a decent young prospect who can play off the ball. This trade makes sense for Boston as well, as Butler would take over Crowder's spot in the lineup while giving them a third all star level player. They've been dangling the Nets pick at teams with available stars for a year and a half, so they seem more than willing to give that up, and the minutes that Brown and Rozier give are replaceable in house.

Team 2: Minnesota Timberwolves

The Bulls reportedly almost sent Butler to Minnesota on draft day for the fifth overall pick. That wouldn't have been nearly enough for the Bulls, especially now considering how well he's played. But with the Timberwolves struggling, and rumors that Thibodeau is looking for veteran help, they might be able to get much more.

Bulls get: Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, 2017 2nd round pick (NO), 2018 2nd round pick (MIN)

Timberwolves get: Jimmy Butler

This trade gets complicated, because the Timberwolves can't trade a first round pick this year. They owe their 2018 first rounder to Atlanta. Because of that, the Bulls should be asking for two of Minnesota's young core players, and Karl-Anthony Towns is surely untouchable. Wiggins and LaVine are two good players to build around, but a high pick in the loaded 2017 draft is what the Bulls should be working for and Minnesota can't offer them that.

Those are the two teams that have been rumored to be looking at Butler the most, but let's look at two more options that could put together intriguing packages.

Team 3: Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers signaled that The Process was no more by ousting Sam Hinkie and bringing in Bryan Colangelo. However, they're still just as bad as they were under Hinkie. If Colangelo was really brought in to turn the 76ers assets into wins quickly, why wouldn't he be interested in Butler? Not only that, but the 76ers have 5 lottery picks from the last four drafts on their roster who all belong at one of the two forward spots. The 76ers have a lot to offer the Bulls, and Colangelo may be feeling heat to both turn things around quickly and settle the frontcourt logjam, so the Bulls can afford to really swing for the fences here.

Bulls get: Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, 2017 first round pick (PHI) 2019 first (SAC)

76ers get: Jimmy Butler, Jerian Grant, 2017 first round 1-10 protected (SAC)

Joel Embiid has looked like a future all-star through his rookie season, but himself,  Jahlil Okafor, and Nerlens Noel are all centers. At least one of them has to go. Rumors have been that it would be either Okafor or Noel, but would Colangelo be willing to give up Embiid? Maybe, between his injury history and the overcrowding they have at that spot he should consider it. Saric has also played well as a rookie, despite playing out of position at the 3. That would become even more of a problem when Ben Simmons returns. Philly can afford to give up their own pick this year with a top three protected pick from the Lakers coming to them.

Team 4: Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are probably a more strange inclusion to this list, but like Philly, they have a very promising young big man stuck in a crowded frontcourt.

Bulls get: Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, 2017 first round pick (DEN)

Nuggets get: Jimmy Butler

Nikola Jokic is making a name for himself, Gary Harris is young and a good all around scorer at the shooting guard spot. The first round pick wouldn't be as valuable as ones the Bulls could get from Boston or Philadelphia, but a mid-round pick this year is more valuable than in most years. Jokic is better than any young player the Bulls could get back, including Embiid given his injury history. Denver likely considers Jokic untouchable, but it's a call the Bulls should be willing to make.

I understand that a lot of these trades are asking for a major haul, but that's exactly what Forman and Paxson should be doing given where the Bulls are currently at. A good trade makes sense for Chicago, but it isn't necessary. If you can get a godfather offer like one of these--take it. If you can't-- then keep Butler and commit to building a team that plays to his strengths, instead of hindering them.


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  • I would take the Minnesota deal in a second. I seriously doubt the would give up both Wiggins and Lavine. I would throw Taj into that deal to get that one done. Love Butler but I don't want to see his talent wasted here either.

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    Yeah its a deal that I would take in a second too but I think its one that makes a ton of sense for both teams. Minnesotta gets a borderline superstar two way player that can help lead a still really good T'Wolves core. They would instantly be a playoff team with Butler, KAT and Dunn as their key players.

    We get two guys with a crazy high ceiling. I have been a fan of LaVine since GarPax decided to draft the "NBA ready" McDermott over him. We aren't going anywhere next couple seasons so it would give these two a great chance to hone their game while they build a team around them.

    All that said I do not see anyway GarPax make any trade with Thibs unless they think they are robbing him. These two clowns and their giant egos man...

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    If the Bulls trade Jimmy expect a lot of losing the next 3 to 5 yrs.
    The problem with young NBA teams is not talent but the refs. They're quick to call fouls, travelling, and ticky-tack calls on younger players while high profile players gets away with it.
    I like the Jimmy trade idea with Boston, but like the comment I posted yesterday on CSNs site about this scenario, if the Bull do trade Jimmy they should wait until after the lottery results. If Boston ends up with another top 3 draft pick make the trade.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I agree with your comment about the refs, which supports the idea that the NBA is fixed, but that's a topic for another time.

  • I dont see us trading with Minni, only because they dont have a pick and that should be the main objective. Might want to trade for Dunn instead of Lavine tho. I would love if we could get all 3 but Butler doesnt have the name recognition for that.

    Bostons a lowball offering team. I would like the offer, especially if we got Sac's pick too. But I doubt they make a legit offer for Butler or anyone for that matter.

    Denver's offering is meh. Harris is undersized but ok. I wouldnt love it but it may make sense.

    I would love to get Embiid and another pick in a deep draft, but I dont see it. I dont trust a small sample size for Embiid when he has been hurt for his entire career at this point. It could all be a flook and he could be the next Greg Oden. But if we had to make a deal with the 76ers, that would be the trade. But a trade of Embiid and Simmons for Butler would be better. But they would never do that.

  • Personally I think J. Brown has a very bright future, unfortunately, I doubt that Boston would give him up along with the other pieces mentioned here. However, someone else on Reddit also wrote that Boston would be willing to do this trade, however, I want to know what the source is. Where is the source that says Boston would be willing to trade Jaylen, along with those other pieces?

  • In reply to 30ad:

    I'm not doubting that they might trade Jaylen, my doubt is that they would trade Jaylen along with those other pieces.

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    In reply to 30ad:

    Well if they don't, they won't get that badly needed superstar they so desperately need to push them over the top. Without that star, they are going to be perennial casualties of the 1st or 2nd round of the playoffs every year.

    Jimmy Butler is not just a superstar but his deal is team friendly and going to look like a bargain when the salary cap goes up again.

    Personally if we could get Lavine and Wiggins, I would do it. Lavine is going to be a superstar and Wiggins could turn into one as well.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Where is the source that says the Celtics are willing to package Jaylen Brown, along with the rest of those pieces, for J. Butler? I understand they'd love to have Jimmy Butler, but I believe that is too much of an asking price, and I've seen a couple, or few people suggest that the offer expressed in this article is something the Celtics could do, however, even though fans have run with this idea, I'm asking for proof to be shown that the Celtics would even do it. Again, I understand they like Jimmy, but I doubt they would do it for that deal, and if there is no proof to show that they would, it's all speculation, and shouldn't be considered a substantial offer.

  • Agree if we don't get a great return, such as lottery picks and solid young starting players it doesn't make sense to trade Jimmy. If we keep Jimmy, get the Sac pick and bring back another star player via free agency we may be the same level. The difference is that without Jimmy, we are going to suck for the next 3/4 years. With Jimmy, we are going to barely make the playoffs on the next 3/4 years. The East is owned by Cav for the next 5 years, so it doesn't matter. Pick your poison.

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    I comprised a deal that would trade J. Butler and D. McDermott for J. Brown, A. Johnson, and Boston's '18 1st round pick. I talked this over with multiple fans on the Celtics' Reddit page, and they agreed to this deal. Not only does it create a lot of cap space for the Bulls, as A. Johnson has an expiring contract, but they get a pick, and the best part is I personally believe J. Brown is underrated among most of the Celtics' and Bulls' fans I've read or heard talk about him. I believe his ceiling is higher than Jimmy's, so I would jump on this while J. Brown is still an underrated player, as I see it.

  • In reply to 30ad:

    That is an awful, awful trade proposal. One of the worst I've ever seen. I am sure the Celtic fans loved it while their were laughing.

  • Too clever by a half. Keep Butler.

  • I would make the Minnesota deal in a heartbeat and Thibs is just dumb enough to do it. The Philly trade looks good but they won't part with Embiid. And Denver and Boston have nothing on their rosters I want. I am particularly tired of all the Boston speculation because their roster is so over-rated with no one close to Butler's talent (including the midget Isaiah Thomas).

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    I agree , thibs love for Jimmy could get us a better deal. Minn has such a nice young core, not sure why they would want to trade it just as its starting to do well unless thibs has issues with some of them.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    GarPax's fear of being bested by Thibs who they hate is likely to squash any deal with Minni.

    Thibs didn't offer all that much during the draft so I doubt he is "dumb enough" to give up the farm for Butler.

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