What a tumultuous week in Chicago Bulls basketball. Frustrations exploded and Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler destroyed their teammates, Jerian Grant then basically subtweeted D-Wade, and then Rondo went nuclear on Instagram and called out Butler and Wade. Then Gar Forman gave a powerful statement to the press (I’m being sarcastic) and the Bulls held a team meeting and seem to have motivated them in the short-term as they’ve won two in a row. Is this sustainable? We’ve been given no reason to believe it actually is, but even if it is, the Bulls have some difficult decisions to make. I wrote a few weeks ago that the Bulls were at a crossroads. The Bulls are now at the fork in the road and with the trade deadline fast approaching, they need to decide which path they’re going to take: Stand pat and be mediocre, try to make acquisitions to improve and be a playoff team, or start over. Those are the only three options they have. Today, I’m going to put on my Bulls GM hat (no questions, by the way) and blow this thing up. With these trades, I’m assuming two things:
Why am I making those two assumptions? Because A) Fred Hoiberg gives you a good chance at a lottery pick. You can always fire him after the season and find a better coach. B) Jimmy Butler is just too good to trade. Zach Lowe just referred to him on a recent podcast with Nick Friedell as a top 10 player in the league. That’s high praise. Top 10 players aren’t a dime a dozen and if you have one, you should keep him. However, I will also provide a few “bonus” moves if the Bulls decide Butler is not the franchise.
Here are the moves I would make if I were Gar/Pax and wanting to hit the reset button on this team:
Why Chicago does it: You take a chance on Serge Ibaka being a long-term fit even if he is on an expiring contract. He’s much more athletic than Taj Gibson and he can hit the 3 and provide spacing with a cramped starting lineup. Basically, he’s a power forward that fits Hoiberg’s system. Orlando has been rumored to be shopping Ibaka, so why not jump on it? Also, SUPER MARIO! I love Hezonja, have seen him in person, and it’s apparent that the Magic just aren’t thrilled with him. He can be a player. The Bulls would love his style on their team and I think this would be a nice fit for him.
Why Orlando does it: You’re renting Taj Gibson for the rest of the season and providing a respected veteran in the locker room and someone who can show these young guys how to be a professional. You’re also getting MCW for the rest of the season and keeping cap flexibility going into the offseason. A bonus for the Magic: These guys don’t make you any better so you still have a shot at the lottery in this deep draft.
If Orlando doesn’t work, here’s a destination that surely would:
Why Chicago does it: Savings! You save $2 million roughly by making this trade. Rush is another shooter (44% from three this year) and Bjelica is older – he’s 28 – but this is only year 2 from him. Maybe he develops into something? It’s only a year and a half on his contract, so why not take the chance at that price?
Why Minnesota does it: Um, hello? THIBS! TAJ! The reunion! I’m half kidding, but Thibs would love to have Taj Gibson on this team to pair alongside Karl Anthony-Towns. Taj would bring his toughness and defensive ability alongside this young Minnesota team and be a locker room leader. The Wolves need some mental toughness and a veteran leader to help get them over the hump (even though they’ve improved lately). Taj Gibson is that guy.
Why Chicago does it: They move Lopez and get out of his longer contract. This would allow the Bulls to search for a better fit at center. Someone who is more athletic and younger.
Why Dallas does it: Although they like Dwight Powell and Mejri, Lopez provides them rim protection and veteran experience. They’re starting to move up the standings in the West and with Bogut’s constant injuries, this is a more solid replacement. Lopez is a better offensive player than Bogut as well.
Chicago could also take another risk here, but I don’t think I would do it…
Same reasoning as before for both teams, but an Anderson/McDermott swap could be interesting. For the Bulls, it gives them an athletic and young guard/forward in Anderson and for Dallas, it adds a shooter in McDermott. Would the Bulls give up on McDermott this soon? I don’t think so, but Anderson is an interesting all-around player and the Bulls do have Valentine to replace some of the shooting. I’d still stick with a straight Bogut/Lopez swap.
Why Chicago does it: They move Dwyane Wade and get some useful pieces back in Iman Shumphert (3-and-D!), Channing Frye and his shooting (which would be huge for Hoiberg’s system), and respected veteran, Richard Jefferson. While Jefferson is under contract for three years, he could retire soon and that salary would be off the cap (he flirted with retirement last offseason).
Why Cleveland does it: Poor LeBron needs more help. Apparently, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, JR Smith, Shumphert, Frye, and the recently acquired Kyle Korver isn’t enough for the DEFENDING NBA CHAMPIONS and LeBron needs another playmaker. That’s why he’s scouring the earth for electric playmakers like Lance Stephenson, Mario Chalmers, and Kirk Hinrich. Are you seeing why Cleveland would take a chance on D-Wade?
Quick rant: I tweeted this and I’m going to say it again here: No other all-timer has needed as much help as LeBron. I have him ranked a solid 3rd in my all-time NBA rankings. And him ranting on Charles Barkley was pathetic. Listen, first, Barkley was right in his criticism. Second, Kenny Smith was right beside Barkley saying the same things and you didn’t criticize him. Third, you sound ridiculous crying for help when you just won the title with this exact team, your team has the highest payroll in the NBA and you insisted that they give Tristan Thompson a ridiculous amount of money, and you already have two of the top 15 players in the NBA on the roster. Barkley was 100% correct when he asked, “Does he not want to compete?” It always seems like LeBron wants the recognition of being the greatest without the responsibilities of being the greatest. LeBron, winning starts with you. You have to lead, you have to be the man, and you have to say, “Enough is enough.” Stop pining for more help and more playmakers. Take the lead.
Okay, back to the trades. If the Bulls are hesitant to take on these salaries, there’s a three-team version of this trade that may work:
Why Brooklyn does it: Brooklyn has no draft pick this year or next. They aren’t a free agent destination (at this time). Landing Shumphert and Thompson, who are real NBA players, on longer term contracts could be appealing to them and when they become expiring deals is when Brooklyn will be right in the heart of their rebuild.
Chicago would then take back Booker (only on a two year deal) and Foye (expiring contract). Plus, do the math: They’re sending out $23 million and bringing back $11.8 million. SAVINGS! The Bulls are the reigning and defending financial champions of the world. This would get them closer to that tax line and keep them from the repeater tax.
Why Chicago does it: They come to the conclusion that Mirotic just isn’t what they thought he would be. Mirotic was sold as the next Dirk (by myself included), but frankly, he just hasn’t developed…at all. He looks like the exact same guy that came into the NBA three seasons ago. Okafor was All-Rookie First team last year, played for Coach K at Duke (becoming a National Champion) so he has the pedigree the Bulls like in young players, and looks to be a 20 point per game guy. He’s also young and on a ridiculously cheap rookie contract in the new CBA. It’s low-risk/high reward. Okafor is also from Chicago. Bring him home, Gar/Pax!
The Bulls may have to throw in a 2nd round pick to entice Philadelphia with this trade, which is fine by me.
Why Philadelphia does it: It gives them Mirotic, who may just need a change of scenery and could be an interesting complement next to Joel Embiid. At worst, he’s a scorer off the bench and he still has a high ceiling. He’s an expiring contract, but Niko is still a restricted free agent and they can match any money thrown at him. They lose Okafor, who seems to be the odd man out with Embiid and Noel. With Simmons still on the horizon, they need to move on from Okafor. This would be a solid trade and Niko could be interesting on that roster. They’re inching closer to the Playoffs and Niko becomes another NBA player on a roster that needs it.
So, after all of these trades (excluding a hypothetical McDermott/Anderson swap), this is what the Bulls would look like:
This roster is more to Hoiberg’s style. You can finally find out if Hoiberg is just a bad coach or if he’s just been given a raw deal and personnel that is the opposite of pace and space. This roster also gives the Bulls a nice combination of youth, experience, and long-term/short-term contracts. They retool and overhaul the roster and keep Jimmy Butler as their centerpiece.
Now, here are some bonus trades if the Bulls decide to move on from Butler. Here’s my personal preference:
*This includes both the 2017 and 2018 Brooklyn Nets picks
Why Chicago does it: They decide a full rebuild is necessary. They land three young players on nice contracts and also get two picks that are likely to be in the top 5 of this year’s loaded draft and next year’s draft.
Why Boston does it: Boston wants to win now. They’ve acquired this war chest of assets and haven’t really turned them into anything. Landing a top 10-15 player like Butler is a huge move. Boston would have to decide if they prefer the certainty of Butler or the potential of a top 1-3 player in this year’s draft.
If Boston is only willing to part with one of the Brooklyn picks, then they’d have to reconstruct what the Bulls get in return. This is what I would accept:
Here’s my thinking: If you’re only getting the 2017 pick from Boston, you still have a shot at a franchise player and if you have a franchise player, you need real role players around them. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley are those types of players. Also, notice Rozier in both trades. I think Rozier could be an Aaron Brooks or a Nate Robinson type of scorer. He just needs an opportunity to play more and with a rebuilding team, he would get that opportunity.
The other trade scenario I’d make for Jimmy Butler is this:
Why Chicago does it: They land Wiggins on a cheaper contract (2015 Rookie of the Year by the way) and also get Kris Dunn, whom they coveted in last year’s draft. Jordan Hill and Bjelica (if he’s not traded with Taj Gibson) are throw ins and they may have to request a future first from Minnesota.
Why Minnesota does it: THIBS! BUTLER! REUNION! And if they did the Taj Gibson trade before: It’s like a SUPER REUNION! Obviously, Butler and Thibs respect one another. I’m not buying into the notion that Butler wanted Thibs out. They went out for steaks a few weeks after. You don’t go to dinner with the guy who got you fired. (For what it’s worth, I think D-Rose was the loudest critic of Thibs in that locker room. Just a hunch.) Also, if the Ryen Russillo story of Butler and his distrust of the front office is true, then Thibs sided with Butler over management and had his back. Do you think Jimmy would turn on Thibs like that? I don’t. Jimmy seems like a loyal guy. But the Timberwolves do this because teaming an experienced, top 10-15 player like Butler with the rising Karl Anthony-Towns and Thibs would make the Timberwolves a legitimate playoff team. Their defense would improve, their effort would improve, they would have a crunch time scorer and wouldn’t give up leads in the fourth. This would be a nice scenario for Minnesota.
However, I wouldn’t be the guy to trade Jimmy Butler. I think you can build a championship team around him, but you have to go all-in and be intentional about what you surround him with. The Bulls haven’t done that so far. Will that change at the trade deadline? We can dream.
Brandon Pence is the co-founder of B2 Hoops and the founder/editor emeritus of “The Bulls Charge.” Follow him on Twitter here.