I understood why the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler at the draft last year. I hated the events leading up to it and didn’t like the return in the deal, but I begrudgingly understood why it happened.
Now that Butler has demanded a trade from the Timberwolves after only one season, there’s a natural inclination to look back at the deal and redetermine the Bulls grade. Sure, the Wolves ended their 14-year playoff drought with Butler leading the way, but it’s looking they traded a handful of assets for a first-round exit and plenty of drama. Minnesota will recoup some value by trading Butler (if Thibs isn’t a stubborn ass on this, which ... well ...), but how much remains to be seen. Not to mention the No. 16 pick, Justin Patton, has dealt with nothing but injury problems in his young career and is on his way to being a bust.
We even saw stuff like this on Thursday:
I have doubts about that theoretical team actually becoming a serious contender. It’s still a fun thought experiment to consider where the Wolves would’ve taken the more patient route rather than getting Butler. But that’s not Thibs’ style.
Lauri Markkanen himself added to the fun by seemingly trolling the Wolves with this picture from the draft:
This is perfectly petty, and I’m here for all of it. I have moved on from the Butler era and will admit he seems to be a real pain in the ass.
However, I’m not declaring any grand victories yet. The Bulls still have tons of work to do to make me feel great about how the situation with Butler played out in Chicago.
Markkanen could change this almost single-handedly, and I’m fully aboard his bandwagon. I’m surprised at how good he already is; I’m certain the Bulls are as well. But this is only the beginning, and he needs to take major steps to become a legitimate star. I have concerns about that happening on this current roster, but hopefully he’s as good as we think he is and he makes it happen.
The rest is not as exciting. The idea of LaVine as an electric scorer and playmaker is tantalizing, but he just got a massive contract after a major injury (he’ll be making more than Butler this year) and a real rough return season. He’s never been a plus player in his career. It’s a toss-up at best for him to live up to that contract. Dunn took a big step after an awful rookie season, but he’s still an average point guard at 24 years old. There are no guarantees he’s actually the coveted Point Guard Of The Future the Bulls have been seeking since Derrick Rose. This upcoming season will be a crucial one for Dunn in terms of his NBA trajectory and Bulls future.
I’ve written elsewhere that there’s a path for this Bulls path to work out. The Butler trade set them up with intriguing young players, and they’ve since added several more in the process. But this thing could easily go nowhere. These guys still have a lot to prove, and for every rebuild that works out, there are a bunch that fizzle out.
Let’s hope the Bulls can unequivocally prove me wrong once and for all about the Butler trade and become a beast in the East in the near future. The journey starts next week.