Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report is reporting that the Bulls are listening to offers for Jimmy Butler.
“League sources say that the team made it known weeks ago through back channels that shooting guard Jimmy Butler is available for the right price.”
Apparently they held off trading him earlier this season due to the team’s strong start, but now that things are going poorly, they are willing to move him.
This could very well be the opportunity the Celtics have been waiting for. Butler is a legit star player that can carry a team offensively (or play off a guy like Isaiah Thomas). Butler’s personality would seem to mesh perfectly with this hard-working, lunchpail team of overachievers.
Rumors abounded on draft night that the Celtics and Bulls were progressing on a Jimmy Butler deal. So it stands to reason that the Celtics are still interested.
The logical question becomes, “What is the price?”
For some insight, let’s look back at draft night. Now, trade discussions can be fluid, and there are several conflicting reports about what may or may not have been made available or asked for on either side. Here are a few
The Bulls were at one point open to rebuilding — sort of. Chicago’s demand for Butler was two valuable draft picks and two starter-level players, according to multiple league front-office executives. For the Celtics, the request was likely Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, the no. 3 pick (which the Bulls likely would have used to draft Kris Dunn), and the no. 16 pick; from the Wolves, it was Zach LaVine and the no. 5 pick (Dunn), though it’s unclear who else was involved. The Celtics weren’t coughing up all that, and the Wolves were reportedly unwilling to part with LaVine, so no deal was completed.
Jae, Smart, the 3rd pick, and the 16th pick is a lot. I can see why that deal might have been turned down, but I can also see why they might have progressed pretty far down the line on it. Perhaps the Celtics’ offer was lower. For example:
Serious trade discussions occurred with the Celtics, who owned the No. 3 pick. The Tribune reported last June that several proposals were exchanged, including one with Jae Crowder and the Celtics' third and 16th overall picks. In another scenario, Avery Bradley was discussed in place of the No. 16 pick.
So it sounds like the Celtics were trying to hold back one of the assets the Bulls were asking for. Perhaps keeping Smart out of the deal or including Avery Bradley (who happens to play Butler’s position) in the deal instead. Again, hard to tell based on these rumors what each side was asking for and what the other side was willing to do.
Things have changed since draft night. Kris Dunn was a main target for the Bulls, and he’s in Minnesota now (and not playing as well as they might have hoped). The upcoming draft has plenty of top-notch point guards, and the Celtics do have those valuable Nets picks. I’m sure the Bulls are one of the teams that Danny Ainge was talking about when he said that teams are asking about the Nets picks.
The guess here is that the Bulls would want both Nets picks and/or one of the picks and Jaylen Brown. It would be a shame to see Brown go since he already has a good rapport with Butler (they were offseason workout buddies), but it would also be a shame to lose both Nets picks. On the other hand, these are the moments for which you acquire those assets.
As a GM, Danny Ainge has to assign value to players and assets and come up with a fair deal. As a fan, I’m starting to get anxious for a deal to be made. I feel like he’s “won” so many deals recently that he can afford to overpay a little bit (whatever that means)—especially when you factor in how hard it is to acquire a star player.
Of course the Wolves (or other suitors) might be thinking along similar lines, and the Cs could get into a bidding war of sorts. The danger would be in giving up too many assets (remember what Ainge offered for the right to draft Justise Winslow?) and setting the rest of the team’s future back for the sake of one player.
So what package would you offer for Butler? What is the most you’d give up? Or would you prefer to let it ride with this group and see what happens in the lottery and/or draft night?