Ben: The Jimmy Butler rumors have been swirling in Minneapolis since the day Thibs arrived in April. The front office has been quiet since then, but reports coming from ESPN’s Marc Stein are saying that Thibs offered the #5 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft for Butler, with Chicago countering with Andrew Wiggins and the #5 pick for Butler. While the rumors certainly indicate a commitment to winning in Minnesota (something that hasn’t been very prevalent in the last twelve seasons), it seems like a steep price to pay for Butler (who is undoubtedly a great player).
Butler is a great yield from the trade but the main concern from a Wolves’ fan perspective is that it indicates a shifting of the time-table to a mindset of win now, rather than cultivating the young talent already on the roster to build a winning tradition around Towns that has an outside chance of becoming a dynasty (yes, yes, I’m getting way ahead of myself, but did you watch him play this year?!), given Towns’ historic rookie season.
Brock: Whoa, a little cavalier with the “dynasty” term there, Ben? There’s a lot of young talent, no denying it’s a fun team to watch, and Towns is a bonafide stud, but you’re still coming off of a 29-53 season. I, for one, respect the homerism. The suspension of reality has been prerequisite to most of my fandoms – the Cubs until last year, the Bears always and forever – but the Bulls have always existed in their own reality. I was four when Jordan retired after that sixth championship, and as much as the everlasting residual effects of that legacy (and watching Space Jam until my eyes fell out of their sockets*) made it seem like I did, I never truly experienced that run.
The post-dynasty Bulls I know went from terminally awful to perpetual Eastern Conference also-rans in LeBron’s shadow. And now that the Little Engine That Couldn’t Quite has imploded, GarPax is left trying to either tape up the pieces or sell them as scrap. The latter option is why the Butler rumors abound, and it’s important to note the inherent uncertainty in these rumors. Where you heard of a specific Wiggins request, I heard rumblings of a one or two player packaging of Wiggins/Rubio/LaVine/Dieng plus the #5 pick. Or that a three-team trade is a possibility, though no third team has emerged. Or that the Bulls would “rather” part with Rose and his expiring $21M contract. Which…duh. (As Rose’s now-fatigued, former #1 defender, this tangent is its own conversation). Obviously, nothing is guaranteed.
But with the perspectives of each of our fanbases firmly (and lengthily, in my case) cemented, let’s finally dive into it and play armchair GM. What’s your semi-reasonable trade offer for Jimmy Buckets?
Ben: Of course any talk of dynasty is ludicrous, but we have to dream (though we should probably make the playoffs first). The way things have been going lately getting the previous two #1 picks, one of whom projects to be a bona fide cornerstone big man, and a hyper athletic swingman who has potential top 10 player ability, combined with snagging the best coach available have led to some reckless cockiness from Wolves fans, of which I am no exception. Getting into trade specifics, I would immediately pull Wiggins off the table. Even Andrew for Jimmy straight up doesn’t make sense to me just because this Wolves team isn’t ready to win right away, and one of the most exciting parts about this young core is that their time-tables match up. I don’t think you mess with that.
I really like Rubio, LaVine, Wiggins, and Towns starting together. It’s a fun lineup that has enough scoring to mitigate Rubio’s shooting woes while highlighting his incredible court vision and passing ability. I would prefer to not break that up. I think if we add some decent bench players and a legitimate starting 4, we’d be fine. I like Gorgui as, but he’s not a guy that can consistently play alongside Towns. When the Wolves started switching everything after their win against the Warriors (copycat league, Brad Stevens used it to beat the Warriors in Oracle a few nights before), it exposed Dieng because they would explicitly attack him as if he were Enes Kanter, Damian Lillard especially. With that said, we’d have to say yes to any combination of players not including Wiggins or Towns realistically. I love most of the squad (sans Shabazz and Payne), but Butler is obviously better than any of them.
I will say that I’m a little concerned about his injury problems, and if Rubio was involved in the trade, who we would get as a replacement? Tyus is nowhere near ready. LaVine (assuming he’s not in the deal) has been a trainwreck at the point but pleasantly surprising off ball, especially when he’s on the court with Ricky. I don’t really know what to offer, where are you at with this process?
Brock: KAT is clearly untouchable, so my first instinct would be to ask for Wiggins and the #5 pick, which seems at least reasonable. I consider Jimmy Butler a top 20 NBA player, and when I went to confirm that on Basketball Reference, he rated exactly 20th in Win Shares this past season (I’m a fucking genius, basically). A current top-20 has the safety and upside to match a 21 year-old potential star and a top draft pick, and allows Chicago to start their hopefully-mini rebuild. Of course, that is contingent on the Wolves expecting to contend within the next 2-3 years while Jim is still in his prime.
I think I’m on board with the notion of not trading Butler to Minnesota without Wiggins in return, which seems to bring talks to a stalemate. Boston and their #3 overall pick are another rumor, which would likely allow the Bulls to select Kris Dunn, whom they are reportedly interested in, but their supporting trade chips don’t come close to the Wolves’. That leaves some sort of combination of Rubio/LaVine/Dieng and the #5.
Rubio (25) and Dieng (26) are roughly the same age as Butler, which would mean giving up our best player without getting younger (sans pick) or better. LaVine is 21, so if you believe in his upside and get him in a Rubio + #5 package, it seems acceptable. But that’s a big if in order to move the needle for the Bulls, and like you said, that leaves you with a gaping hole at the point.
It’s #WigginsOrBust from my side. Are you walking away?
Ben: I think I would, but I’m not sure that Thibs would. I think the Butler for Wiggins/#5 is even in a vacuum, but I don’t think it makes the most sense for the team. Butler makes us exponentially more likely to make the playoffs next year and end the drought, but as far as building a legitimate contender around Towns, I’m honestly just not sure. Given that we’ve yet to see a Thibs-run Wolves team, I’m keen on seeing what he can do with LaVine and Wiggins defensively. They’re definitely athletic enough, and Wiggins has shown glimpses of brilliant on-ball defense, though he often gets lost off-ball, frequently giving up easy back door buckets. I’m led to assume stuff like that wouldn’t fly under the new regime.
None of my hesitation is about Jimmy as a player – he’s a fantastic all-around player – but I’m trying to come up with a mutually beneficial deal. I listened to Daryl Morey on The Vertical Podcast recently and he was talking about that; you’re not necessarily trying to screw someone over, because you’d like to be amicable in the future. That may be a moot point given Thibs’ thorny relationship with the Bulls front office, but I think if I was the Bulls, I would probably want LaVine in addition to the #5 and Wiggins. Trading Butler to me would also signal that the Bulls are trying to completely tear it all down, rather than re-tooling around him. I’d rather see Bulls re-treads come in through free agency right now, than trading away a Wiggins. Both Joakim Noah and Luol Deng have been rumored to be in the mix and they fit more obvious needs for the team. I’d say we have no deal.
Brock: I think that would be smart; once you flip on the Win Now At All Costs switch, there’s no going back. And I’m not sure your roster is quite ripe enough at the moment. As for the Bulls, I find myself reluctantly (Jimmy has been one of my favorite players since his rookie year) working the trade machine, because nothing gets me going like theoretical trades.
Celtics: Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, James Young and the #3? Kings: Boogie and a pick swap? Bucks: Greak Freak (!!!), the Mayo/Vazquez expirings, and the #10, where we throw in Tony Snell? Suns: Eric Bledsoe and the #4?
Of course, we’ll probably stand pat, and I’ll enjoy watching JB do JB things.
Thoughts About the Thoughts
Brian: I have to agree on “no deal” for a different reason: the unpredictability of the Eastern Conference. Where will LeBron be next year? Where will Durant be? Is it that ridiculous to posit that Bulls find themselves with an outside chance at the Eastern Conference Finals with the lineup they currently have?
Brock, re: Brian: don’t get my hopes up 😦