The Chicago Bulls made a big move at the trade deadline, but it wasn’t any of the ones people may have been expecting.
Instead of trading Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler, or trading for pieces that would fit around him, they swapped forwards Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott for some of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s loose change and guard Cameron Payne.
It signaled that the Bulls are ready to enter a rebuild and move on from Butler, even though they couldn’t find a deal that worked this time around. According to this report from Dan Favale of Bleacher Report, there’s about a 50-50 chance Chicago pulls the trigger on a Butler trade this summer:
Talks will heat up around this June’s draft, at which time the Bulls will have more incentive than ever to move their lone superstar.
Denver’s short-lived dalliance with George should put them in play for Butler. The Minnesota Timberwolves also tried poaching Butler last summer and will have another top pick to tempt Chicago with this year. And the Celtics’ presumed interest in George ostensibly puts a clock on the Bulls’ ability to get their hands on a Nets pick.
Should Butler survive the offseason in Chicago, we can start talking about him staying put long term. But with the Bulls knocking on the door of a full-scale rebuild, the chances of this happening feel 50-50—if that.
The Boston Celtics are the usual suspect for any Butler trades. They have reportedly come close to getting him multiple times, and they have the best set of assets of any team in the league. But Denver is apparently going hard after a star player, and they have some interesting assets as well.
Seeing the three-time All-Star forward traded from Chicago seems more and more likely with each passing day, but the real question is how far will the rebuild go beyond that? The fate of coach Fred Hoiberg and executives Gar Forman and John Paxson are arguably more relevant than the future of the Bulls’ star player.