Hey y’all. For everyone concerned I’m doing just fine. Thank you all for your kind (and unkind) words, thoughts, prayers, positive energy and all that jazz. I’d like to say that it’s gotten easier but it’s been a struggle and will be for quite some time. Luckily I was able to seek comfort thanks to a very intense and oddly specific support group. Now with a few days passed I can muster up the emotional strength to write objectively about this trade. Don’t get me wrong it’s still pretty much as lopsided as it was when it happened but there are a few things I realize now that I couldn’t at the time due to being trapped in a haze of shock, anger and just plain ol’ hurt. I would apologize for this feeling dated but it appears that wouldn’t entirely be true.
Winner: Jimmy Butler
Yeah, Jimmy really won here. For him this trade reminds me of one of those death-defying escapes in (pick a blockbuster action movie) where the hero get’s the hell out of dodge before the ruins crumble or the plane explodes or the Sharknado touches down or hell y’all get the point. And just in case you don’t the Chicago Bulls is the s’ploded plane. And not in a cool yet completely devoid of substance Michael Bey way but in a crappy yet devoid of substance Uwe Boll way. But enough of that, Jimmy is the almost the biggest winner of this trade for the very reasons you would expect.
With Butler now on board the T’Wolves add a plus defender and the only one that have one the wings currently. He gets teamed with the young Andrew Wiggins who averaged 23 PPG last season and has gotten more efficient each year he has been in the league. Neither are superb three point shooters (Wiggins shot 35% and Butler 37% last season) but with Butler playing with a more traditional point guard (for the moment) in Ricky Rubio I would count on a noticeable uptick for Butler while his ability to get to the rack and create or kick should benefit Drew.
It’s a pairing that will need some work but they are immediately better defensively and more versatile. And Butler gets to play with arguably the most exciting core in the league with two 20 plus point a night scorers and a defensively inclined power forward in Georges Dieng. Clearly an upgrade.
Loser: Zach LaVine
This can actually turn around and soon but for the moment you kinda have to put him here. Best case, Levine comes back as strong as he was after tearing his ACL and provide the offensive spark the Bulls have been missing for years even with Butler. Not saying it won’t happen (honestly as a Bulls fan I NEED this to happen) but the springy LaVine will have his obstacles.
First and foremost there is the concern that he’ll lose his explosiveness which is a very common concern with players that rely so much on their athleticism coming off of such an injury. But even if he comes back strong having to fight for minutes with veteran iso-heavy $24 million shooting guard Dwayne Wade will prove enough of an obstacle but when you factor in the “style” of offense the Bulls play along with a lack of presence at the point guard position (although you can argue his familiarity with Kris Dunn may help) will certainly lengthen the time frame to develop chemistry with his new team.
LaVine, a player that has benefited from the decent spacing in Minnesota will have to find a way to replicate the same quality of play with a team that was so bad in that department watching them many nights made me have deep, philosophical discussions with myself about the theory of negative space. At least in the early going he will see more contested three and will realize that his driving lanes will constrict much faster. If he’s honest with himself these are things he can overcome in time. Just don’t be surprised if he’s not the home run Bulls’ management thought they hit with this.
Winner: Tom Thibodeau
Simply put, Thibs did that s**t! It’s no secret that the Thibs / Bulls union ended acrimoniously and that the split had been coming for quite some time. And even with the stink it caused it was easily only the fifth or sixth most embarrassing thing the Bulls have done in the past three summers. Thibs’ first season with Minnesota was much ballyhooed but ultimately failed to deliver on all of the positive prognostications put upon them. His laborious and defense first leadership style proved to provide too steep of a learning curve for the TimberPups.
With this trade Thibs is essentially killing two birds with one stone. He gets sweet SWEET payback on his old employer and he receives a top 15 player that he developed himself and who’s presence will provide a veteran presence and is most familiar with his style so he can lead by example by translating it on the court with his new teammates. Thibs, before he makes any other moves this summer has placed Minnesota as the odds on favorite to move into the Western Conference playoffs and finally got to taste revenge at the same damned time.
Loser: Fred Hoiberg
Quick question, what in the HELL is Hoiberg supposed to do with this? Look, any of y’all that know me knows that I’m not the biggest Fred Hoiberg fan. I have so many examples of me slandering him that I can’t figure out which link to use so I’m not even going to use one. However, there’s one thing I have always believed, if you want someone to do a job right you gotta give them the proper tools. With this trade you have arguably downgraded immediately at two positions (I’ll explain later) but in it the Bulls also failed to address their biggest problem position, point guard. Hoiberg runs an uptempo style that is predicated on pace, ball movement and shooting. The Bulls may have gotten better at shooting here (and boy do they need it) but they have fallen further into the bad point guard rabbit hole. Hoiberg also loft his best all around player and chief defender in Butler.
There are pieces here that can make the Bulls an exciting team but we’ve seen far too many examples of fun to watch teams that just didn’t win enough games. Hell, the Timberwolves were one of these teams last year. It just appears that while putting a band-aid over one wound they poured salt in another.
Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
Surprise! Clearly the understatement of the still very young off-season but it still bears worth noting that they won the s**t out of it. Check this out y’all, their death lineup will most likely be Rubio? – Butler – Wiggins – Dieng – Towns. Is that something you want to deal with down three with 15 seconds? Didn’t think so. This is a lineup that has shooters, three plus defenders, a wing that can post up and one that can get to the rack with ease. Teams better start taking notice. This is also a squad with quite a bit of cap space so don’t even think they’re done building.
This also works well for their pocketbook. They’re getting two seasons of Butler before having to make a decision about paying him. Best case, make a run or two and Jimmy loves the north and wants to re-up. Worst case, they’re getting a two year look at Jimmy and can go their separate ways after at least one playoff run. They also release themselves the burden of having to deal with the money coming to LaVine (more on that later). In all, this was the move that Thibs has been waiting to make since he’s gotten there and one that the organization has wanted to see that will build upon the groundwork laid by late Flip Saunders.
Loser: Chicago Bulls
Surprise SURPRISE! Okay, we knew this was ugly and some of how was expressed in the Hoiberg section. But REALLY think about this. Chicago is already a team with very limited flexibility to improve their roster after Wade picked up his option now after losing Butler for…….well………you know it is hard to see how they will be competitive in the current. As constructed (and probably close to what they will actually have) their death lineup shapes up to be Rondo / Dunn – Wade / LaVine – Zipser – Markkanen – Lopez. More like suicide lineup, amiright? The hodgepodge of Rajon Rondo, Jerian Grant, Cam “King Panda” Payne, Ike Canaan and now Kris Dunn is the best example of the sheer ineptitude of Bulls management and is a problem that does not seem to be able to sort itself out soon. In terms of Dunn this is probably one of the worst places he could land in hopes of rebounding from a disappointing rookie campaign.
This will also be an expensive trade for the Bulls. LaVine will be rookie extension eligible in October although I can’t see the Bulls offering him because not even they will extend someone with out a sample size (let me not speak too soon). Either way next summer he’s due up for some money and shapes up to be one of those no win situations for Bulls management because if they sign him it will most likely be for too much and if he jets the centerpiece of the trade in which they flipped their franchise player just shaped up to be a rental.
There is a theory that the Bulls are going to tank and that they are actually taking a genius route in doing so. With this I would argue that one of the most important things to do when properly tanking is to clear your books and stack assets. For a bit of levity I ask how’s this for stacking assets. Taking on Cam Payne and Joffery Lauvergne and giving a first rounder to OKC. Pick swapping up nine pick while picking up a guy that has to be paid next summer oh and the protected Sacramento pick they whiffed on. Huh, you know some of these moves are Kingsesque (not nearly as cool as it sounds). This isn’t smartly tanking it’s hustling backwards. And that’s about as good a place to leave this.