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The Jimmy Butler trade wasn’t ‘the market’, it was a Bulls market

taking on some dummies

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Chicago Bulls
GarPax with a fan
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

It’s typically not good policy to form content based on what ‘people on Twitter’ are saying, but I’ve seen there, and in the comments here, that it’s no fault of the Bulls that they got pantsed in their Jimmy Butler deal. They had to trade Jimmy, that night, and it just so happened his ‘market’ was weaker than conventional wisdom suggested.

This is wildly dumb though! So I’m indeed spending time calling it dumb.

We’ve seen it in some silly columns, like David Haugh of the Tribune, who leads with a strawman that Bulls fans are going to be upset that the Timberwolves will be good. No we’re upset this trade sucked! But ah, don’t rush to judgement. Reminds me of this classic KC Johnson joint after the Rondo signing.

Haugh, who previously had given-in to Stockholm Syndrome assuming GarPax are entitled to be here forever, praised his captors once more while showing derision towards Bulls fans:

Since the trade, the only thing more surprising than the reality has been the reaction. The boos that cascaded through the United Center during the Game 6 blowout loss to the Celtics sounded like cries for change. Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman heard them and responded with a bold move — yet the negativity intensified. How baffling.

Those complaining that the Bulls shouldn't have had to surrender the 16th pick aren't being realistic about Butler's value. Those unhappy with Butler leaving don't understand the way NBA teams typically must bottom out to rise again.

How gross. ESPN beat reporter Nick Friedell was even more galling in ignorance, outright laughing at the idea that maybe this front office isn’t deserving of total trust.

I haven’t seen a column from Friedell on the matter yet, so if that linked video doesn’t play, here’s my transcript through gritted teeth of him with fellow chucklehead David Kaplan on CSNChicago:

KAP-MAN: It’s a direction you and I have been screaming about for two years, they finally embraced it.

Friedell: Couldn’t agree with you more. Finally they’re unified in the need to do...something. I know we’re in a small minority on this, but I actually think the Bulls made the right move. We’ll see how it plays over time, and I have to laugh at the people who say ‘this certainly an ‘F’’, this is an awful deal

KAP-MAN: they’re not looking at what the deal is

Friedell: Absolutely! There was not that big of a market for Jimmy. We all respect what he’s done, but throughout the league, you’re only as good as you can get back, and this wasn’t a lot to get back in reality.

All smiles and laughs, at you people who think the Bulls could have done better.

Now, again, us people shouldn’t get too up-in-arms over what a Mensa trio of Haugh, Kaplan, and Friedell think. Friedell in particular outed himself with tweet after the Bulls sold the 8th pick in the second round to the champs:

Team observers forget that the NBA isn’t some regulated, fully-knowledgeable market. And that it’s a total abandonment of critical thinking to assume that the Bulls did the best they could do’s just self-evident that all teams get and take the best deal? What? With this logic, no transaction can be judged because the market is what it is.

Now, KC did report (so...according to the Bulls) that there were few, if any suitors moving top assets on draft night:

The Timberwolves deal, finalized with a phone call between Thibodeau and Paxson, proved the best on the table. According to sources, the Celtics wouldn't offer the No. 3 pick or rights to any of next year's first-round picks for Butler. The Suns, once they realized they would get Josh Jackson, refused to include the fourth pick, sources said. And the Nuggets wouldn't part with Jamal Murray in brief conversations.

Here’s the important thing to remember though: the Bulls suck at trades! They barely did any trades for years, then made an alright one with Derrick Rose, followed by two total duds: one before the season (Snell-for-MCW) and another debacle at the trade deadline with Oklahoma City.

They’ve been bad at this for years, and look to be so anemic that they couldn’t even scout 39 players for this draft, nor know the rules over how many roster spots they have to use. But instead of figuring that maybe the Bulls aren’t going to do what’s best, we’re supposed to believe that:

  1. The Bulls are active enough and have good enough relations around the league to where they can get the most suitors possible. Everyone hates Gar Forman, and John Paxson once quit because he doesn’t like talking to agents.
  2. The Bulls can negotiate well. We’ve seen them throw in a second-round pick to cover the phone bill. They managed to not hold on to their own first-rounder this year when they were the ones trading Jimmy Butler!
  3. The Bulls know the best deal to take. They think Kris Dunn is awesome, so maybe there were other high picks on the table but wanted that ‘certainty’, which doesn’t mean they took the best deal they could, just the best deal they thought they could.

So no, I don’t just assume that the Bulls did their best because we want to believe in their ragtag group of Ames exiles and dynasty-era cronies commanding one of the most valuable franchises in the league.

And here’s a question: given what the Bulls received, what was the rush to get this done on draft night? The only draft-centric considerations were moving up 9 spots. It’s all but assured they didn’t really target Lauri Markkanen, he wasn’t worked out and Fred Hoiberg admitted to having little familiarity with him in the introductory press conference. Again, the Bulls don’t work very hard at scouting.

So instead of taking the first deal that came along (and self-owning when admitting it), wait until free agency when more suitors can come along with cap space to take Jimmy’s contract. The Bulls haul didn’t include any extra draft picks, instead trying to sell their actual return (through official propaganda and The Chicago Tribune) as ‘three lottery picks’ even though they’re actual players, so you can get a potentially better return in the next week than you did on draft night.

This TWolves trade was there for a year, and likely would’ve been there next week. The idea of the Bulls taking that knowledge and leveraging it into an actual better deal, working the phones and showing commanding knowledge of the league, its players, its THAT’S worth a laugh!