It’s close to the offseason for the NBA, and 28 teams are already in the draft and free agency mindset, which means only one thing: trade rumors.
And the league hasn’t disappointed yet, with rumblings on seemingly every shaky franchise about whether they are making a move. This week, there’s been some more rampant talk, and with the draft coming up, one would think the talks are becoming more serious.
Big players in the more serious trade talks are the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls made waves a few weeks ago, when reports filtered through that Jimmy Butler was on the block and the Bulls were taking offers. The All-Star guard has proven to be a two-way player, scoring over 20 points per game and also being a catalyst for the Bulls’ defense. Among the teams inquiring about his talents are the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Boston Celtics.
Minnesota is a young team, with two budding stars in wing Andrew Wiggins and forward Karl Anthony-Towns. While it seems inconceivable that Wiggins or Towns would be made available, the Wolves do have the 5th pick of the draft and are prepared to part with it if Butler is available. New front-office boss Tom Thibodeau coached Butler while he was in Chicago, and has made clear his intentions to trade for the Bulls star. It would likely take a combination of the pick and guard Zach LaVine, forward Gorgui Dieng, and other young pieces to pry Butler away, however.
The other major player in the Butler sweepstakes so far is the Boston Celtics. Boston was able to stock itself with picks in the breakup of the “Big Three” a few years ago and went through a really quick rebuild, turning into one of the more exciting young teams in basketball. The Celtics have a plethora of young talent, and own a top lottery pick as well as two other picks in the first round. Boston has made it clear that it’s ready to deal for a superstar, and Butler is on the Cs’ radar. However, the Chicago Tribune has reported that it would probably take the Bulls lottery pick, guard Avery Bradley, and forward Jae Crowder to make the move work, which seems like a steep ask for Butler from the Celtics’ front office perspective.
Adding more drama to the Chicago sweepstakes, reports are that Derrick Rose is also available to be acquired, with sources from the Bulls front office saying they are more willing to move Rose, the oft-maligned former MVP, than Butler, in not-so-surprising news.
As quickly as the Rose rumors started, a suitor emerged. The New York Knicks, reported by the New York Daily News, were said to be interested in Rose and willing to make a deal – which was eventually confirmed today. The Knicks have made it clear that they are in the market for a game-changing guard, and value it as the top priority of their offseason, looking to give Carmelo Anthony a secondary ball-handler to help shoulder the load in new head coach Jeff Hornacek’s offense.
Aside from Melo and Kristaps Porzingis, New York didn’t appear to have much to offer the Bulls aside from future picks. But the Knicks traded center Robin Lopez, guard Jose Calderon and guard Jerian Grant to Chicago, which shipped guard Justin Holiday, Rose and a 2017 second-round pick back to the Knicks.
With the Bulls looking to deal Butler and Rose, and the news from last month that Joakim Noah had told those close to him that he was done in Chicago, what exactly are the Bulls looking to do? All signs point to a blow up of the roster, with it starting to look like every major piece of the Bulls’ roster will be finding a new home by the end of the offseason.
A Bulls rebuild isn’t something the fan base in Chicago is likely to want to hear, but it could be necessary for an organization that hasn’t gotten over the hump in the postseason, and looks topped out on their performance. Moving Rose will certainly hurt – he was their first genuine superstar since Jordan – but with the guard facing injuries and looking like a shell of his former self, moving his $21.9 million salary next season is going to be key in building something for the future. Noah also isn’t getting any younger, and an infusion of youth and new faces wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 23, 2016
The moving of Butler, however, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Butler may not be a superstar, but he’s no doubt a marquee player in the league. The Bulls moving him signals a total rebuild, and a bottom out of the roster. But Butler’s time in Chicago hasn’t been long, and it seems a little early to give up on Butler and his ceiling on this team.
Maybe the Bulls don’t move either, but with so many rumors and how loud they’ve been, with Butler even talking about a move to Boston with HBO’s Bill Simmons directly, the noise is something that can’t be ignored.
Whatever the outcome, we are more than likely going to see a very different Chicago team next season.