NBA PM: Five Jimmy Butler Trades


The way the Chicago Bulls ended their season, it’s no wonder that teams are working under the assumption that the front office is interested in completely overhauling their roster. As Steve Kyler reported in Tuesday’s AM report, it’s much more likely Chicago would be willing to move Derrick Rose than Jimmy Butler in executing that overhaul, but there’s not a hoops fan alive who doesn’t understand Butler is the more valuable asset.

Chicago has Butler on a great contract for the foreseeable future and has a track record of executing “win-now” philosophies rather than complete rebuilds, so it seems much more likely that John Paxson and Gar Forman would put more work into rebuilding a pseudo-contender around Butler this summer than shipping off their lone All-Star in exchange for younger pieces that could initiate a full rebuild. Still, that hasn’t stopped the rumors that teams are interested in acquiring Butler through whatever means necessary.

Already, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics have expressed interest, which makes sense considering Tom Thibodeau, Butler’s former head coach in Chicago, is now running the Wolves’ front office and Boston has been indirectly tasked with building a nest of All-Stars to try and lure Kevin Durant to Beantown.

The question, though, is what sort of deal would actually get Chicago to pull the trigger on a Butler offer? They may not be actively looking to trade him, but if the offer is too good to refuse, that could seriously change things. The following are a few purely hypothetical trade possibilities that could get the Bulls to budge, even though the likelihood of his actually getting dealt remain rather minute.

(Note: None of these are made with any regard to the salary cap. Assume that the pieces mentioned in each deal are for a framework, and that other pieces would ultimately be involved to make the money work).

Chicago trades Jimmy Butler and the #14 pick to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins and the #5 pick.

To be fair, there’s very little chance that this is the trade that actually happens because Minnesota would essentially be swapping a better draft pick and a younger, less expensive version of Butler in Wiggins to bring back a player who, though more decorated, does have a lot more miles on his odometer and does draw a much larger paycheck.

Despite that, it’s reasonable to assume that any conversation between these two teams is going to start with Chicago wanting Wiggins for their All-Star guard, and it’s not a completely unreasonable ask. In this scenario, Chicago could potentially draft Kris Dunn with the No. 5 pick and bring in Wiggins to reset with players closer to those guys’ ages. The argument against Butler in Chicago is that he’s the only guy of note on that roster in his prime and nobody else is really even close to getting there. Getting Wiggins instead keeps a lot of the same tools in the lineup, albeit with quite a bit less experience.

And that experience would be what Minnesota is paying for. Butler has been named to the All-Star team for two consecutive years and is one of the league’s elite perimeter defenders. He has playoff experience under Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau and would bring more leadership to a team that certainly wouldn’t shun it. It would cost a little to make that swap, but not all that much, and with Thibs in charge it’s not unreasonable to think he could break up the youth movement and start putting more established guys around Karl-Anthony Towns.

Chicago trades Jimmy Butler and the #14 pick to Minnesota for Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and the #5 pick.

But let’s assume Wiggins is off the table, mostly because he probably is. Another option would be to try and pry Rubio away from Minnesota as the primary piece of the trade, along with defensive big man Gorgui Dieng, who would go a long way toward replacing whatever big men in Chicago depart for greener pastures this summer.

Rubio still isn’t a good outside shooter, but he’d absolutely facilitate the up-tempo offense that Fred Hoiberg wants to run in Chicago. Paxson and Forman still could try to take Dunn with the #5 pick and initiate a second trade to rid themselves of Derrick Rose so the point guard rotation didn’t get too muddy, but if the Bulls kept Rubio and Rose for now, there are other options at pick #5. Buddy Hield could be an interesting addition, as could leapfrog big man Marquese Chriss. Dragan Bender has the vibe of a guy who could work in Hoiberg’s system as well, so a trade with Minnesota doesn’t necessarily have to result in drafting Dunn, particularly if Rubio ends up being part of the package.

Chicago trades Jimmy Butler to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and the #5 pick.

In this scenario the Bulls still would get the defensive presence of Dieng, but instead of Rubio they’d end up with two-time slam dunk champion Zach LaVine, who’s a more well-rounded scorer than casual fans give him credit for. He’d be right in line to develop alongside Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis (and, we presume, Kris Dunn, not to mention whomever Chicago would draft at #14), giving Chicago a reasonable reboot that might not be competitive right away but would have the potential to be something pretty interesting a couple of years down the road.

In terms of the most reasonable deals coming from Minnesota, this one looks best for both teams involved. The Bulls are in the driver’s seat on this and certainly have no reason to take even the best offer this summer if they don’t want to. They may hold out for Wiggins or make a deal with a different team, but the Wolves at least have a few interesting packages they can offer up that would at least make Chicago’s front office raise an eyebrow.

Chicago trades Jimmy Butler to Boston for Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, and the #3 pick.

Boston, though, has arguably more to offer by way of assets, especially if the Bulls really are serious about selling high on Butler and cashing him out for as many talented young pieces as possible. This particular deal already looks beefier than anything Minnesota can offer up, not only because that #3 pick all but assures them Dunn if they really do want him so badly, but also gives them a defensive presence in Bradley to replace at least some of what they’re losing in terms of defensive intensity with Butler. Olynyk is a perfect Hoiberg player, a stretch big that can knock down threes, while Crowder has proven that he’d fit in just about anywhere with a motor like the one he’s got. All four of these young players would give Chicago a much more well-rounded core and collectively could replace Butler rather neatly.

Typically it’s not a good idea to trade four quarters for a dollar in the NBA, as Bill Simmons always says, but other such trades have worked out okay for teams in the past. Taking on that many talented young players increases Chicago’s odds of at least one of them blooming into a star.

Chicago trades Jimmy Butler to Boston for Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, Jonas Jerebko, the #3 and the #16 picks.

The other Boston scenario asks for a little less in actual talent (it would be understandable, for example, if the Celtics were not all that keen on shipping off Olynyk), but a little more in draft assets. Any deal Chicago makes likely will have to include either Bradley or Marcus Smart, though Rozier is a guy the Bulls liked in the draft a year ago and would likely love to see flourish in their own system. He languished in Boston in what turned out to be just a loaded backcourt rotation.

Three of the top 16 picks in the forthcoming draft would be the real prize of this deal. Chicago could take Dunn at #3 and then run the rookie with Bradley in the backcourt. Taking players like Domantas Sabonis, Deyonta Davis and/or Denzel Valentine a little later in the draft could really help fill that roster up with good, young talent. Again, the trade wouldn’t help Chicago in the short-term, but it would give them a better shot three or four years down the road, when the team’s current crop of youngsters enters its prime.

In both potential Boston deals, the Celtics get to keep Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger, plus plenty of cap space to chase after guys like Kevin Durant and Al Horford. Danny Ainge’s bevvy of assets are just burning a hole in his pocket, and he can’t wait to overpay for superstar talent.

Chicago may not want to trade Jimmy Butler, but with deals like these they’ll at least have to listen.


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About Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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