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Keeping Jimmy Butler and pseudo-rebuilding

Last night showed an alternate universe where the Bulls chose a better path

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Charlotte Hornets
doofus doug picture just because
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With Dwyane Wade out with knee soreness and Rondo out with being Rondo, the Bulls went to their single-alpha formation. It produced a win, with Jimmy Butler having the best game of his career.

Bulls fans everywhere (or just on Twitter, anyway) sympathized with what Sean Highkin of The Athletic pointed out after the game:

Unencumbered with expectations or multiple veteran guards who can’t shoot, the likes of McDermott, Valentine and Jerian Grant were comfortable and confident. It was something halfway resembling the fabled “Hoiball” offense.

“When you’ve got guys around you that make shots, it makes it easy,” Butler said. “When you get downhill, a defender’s late here and there, and if you can’t [score], you kick the ball out.”

In short, this is what the Bulls would have looked like if the front office had decided to build around Butler with youth instead of bringing in Wade and Rondo.

While I don’t buy that the young guys needed to be more comfortable to play better, having more minutes is the best way to find out if they can play.

And what’s interesting about any accidental youth movement potentially getting underway is that it was decidedly not an option the front office was considering in the offseason. As KC Johnson relayed over the weekend, it was either what they wound up doing, or making a bad trade of Jimmy Butler.

a spirited draft-week internal debate centered on whether to opt for a full rebuild and trade Jimmy Butler, targeting [Kris] Dunn in the draft.

Serious trade discussions occurred with the Celtics, who owned the No. 3 pick. The Tribune reported last June that several proposals were exchanged, including one with Jae Crowder and the Celtics' third and 16th overall picks. In another scenario, Avery Bradley was discussed in place of the No. 16 pick.

As said then, and even more emphatically now: thank goodness they didn’t settle for that in a Jimmy Butler return, who at his current contract is one of the most valuable players in the league. And with the way he’s playing this year is pretty much too good to trade, considering he’s only worth other ‘untradeable’ guys.

The problem of the offseason is that after the Bulls made the proper decision not to sell on Butler, they followed it up with the inept execution of a ‘stay competitive’ path...

So the Bulls opted against pursuing moves like signing Tyler Johnson to an offer sheet, which sources said was discussed internally, because the restricted free agent was commanding a long-term, four-year deal.

Signing Rondo proved attractive to management because he took a two-year deal with only $3 million guaranteed in the second season.

Make no mistake...the Bulls really are this dumb and cheap. It makes any kind of rebuild difficult when you’re this bad at evaluating talent and fit.

So we shall see if this strategy of building around Jimmy Butler works for Fred Hoiberg, who possibly (and hilariously, if true) was catalyzed by rumors of his own demise.

It’d be welcome, though not praised due to the lack of foresight. Because this is key to remember:

The Bulls won a game where Jimmy Butler put forth a herculean effort. But it’s not likely that ‘Jimmy and the Butlers’ will win more than they lose, and could still very well miss the playoffs. But Gar Forman and John Paxson’s plan to ‘stay competitive’ had them in the same boat, and at least this way they can do some evaluation of their own young players on the way to mediocrity.

(and then when it turns out the young players aren’t anything to build around either, then they can do the right thing and resign. Or resign now after the last two offseasons, but that’s maybe too much of an ask.)