Jimmy Butler remains a member of the Chicago Bulls less than 24 hours after the 2016 NBA Draft, though it appeared he was headed elsewhere on Thursday after multiple sources claimed the Bulls were in trade talks.
A month before the draft, ESPN reported that the Minnesota Timberwolves were hoping to acquire Butler and willing to trade the No.5 overall pick in order to reunite the shooting guard with head coach Tom Thibodeau. The interest seemed to be one-sided at the time, but reports on Thursday indicated that both the Timberwolves and Bulls made proposals that included the All-Star.
Talks reportedly shifted once Providence guard Kris Dunn fell to Minnesota at No. 5, but a deal never materialized.
Reported last night but bears repeating: When Dunn dropped past 3, TWolves offered Rubio and No. 5 pick for Butler. Bulls said no.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) June 24, 2016
Vertical Sources: Chicago and Minnesota talks for Jimmy Butler broke down. Bulls wanted Zach LaVine, not Ricky Rubio.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 24, 2016
Dunn is one of the most highly regarded players in the 2016 class, and was expected to go No. 3 to the Boston Celtics. But it’s more than a little puzzling to think Chicago would have traded one of the NBA’s best two-way players in exchange for Dunn and Zach LaVine, neither of whom are considered to be sure-fire stars.
Are the Bulls that high on LaVine?
LaVine, 21, has plenty of potential, and he’s proven to be one of the most athletic players in the league, most notably for his feats in the Slam Dunk Contest. He made improvements from his rookie season to last year in scoring (10.1 ppg to 14 ppg), field-goal percentage (42.2 to 45.2) and three-point shooting (34.1 to 38.9). But he remains a bit of unknown commodity, and it's unclear if his future is at point guard or shooting guard, while Butler is already a proven star at just 26 years old.
General manager Gar Forman did admit the team discussed moving up in the draft, but shot down "heated talks" with another club over Butler.
“We have never made a call in regards to Jimmy Butler,” Forman said. “And we’ve talked about... we value Jimmy Butler. We’re very happy to have Jimmy Butler. We’ve got a terrific basketball player who’s an All-Star, an all-NBA defender, is still young. Obviously, we’ve got him under contract long term—those are all positives.
“We’ve said this all along: 'We like Jimmy Butler.' We did not shop Jimmy Butler. Did we receive calls? Of course we did, and that’s our job to listen to calls. We get calls on a lot of our players. And that’s stuff that happens all throughout the league.”
While the Bulls missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years, Butler was one of the team’s few bright spots. Missing 15 games because of a knee injury, the fifth-year star averaged 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest, shooting 45.4 percent from the field. He made the All-Star team for a second straight year and became a member of the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for a third straight season.
Whether or not the Bulls trade Butler, Chicago’s roster should look a lot different for the 2016-17 season. Three of their four standout players are likely gone, following the trade that sent Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks. Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are both free agents and aren’t expected to return.
A rebuilding process may prompt Chicago to consider dealing Butler, but his contract makes him one of the most valuable stars in the league. Set to make just over $16 million next year, Butler is under contract through the 2019-20 season, and he won’t make $20 million in any one season. Because of the increasing salary cap, top free agents will be making upwards of $30 million in the next few seasons.