Goodbye Jimmy Butler, Hello Irrelevance

Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau embrace after winning the gold medal with Team USA
Photo Credit: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune

In the span of five minutes last night, the Bulls went from being mediocre to completely irrelevant.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Chicago Bulls traded their star, Jimmy Butler, and the 16th pick in last night’s draft (Justin Patton, Creighton) to Minnesota and former coach Tom Thibodeau for injured guard Zach LaVine, second year guard Kris Dunn, and the 7th pick (Lauri Markkanen, Arizona).  Jalen Rose and Mike Wilbon proclaimed on ESPN that the Bulls got fleeced.  Twitter erupted in anger and Bulls Nation began calling for Gar & Pax’s respective jobs to be terminated.  Jimmy Butler’s trainer, Travelle Gaines, held nothing back and called out the Bulls as a classless organization, singling out Gar Forman as being less reputable than drug dealers.  At the Bulls presser last night, John Paxson seemed angry and frustrated at the questioning and shock and didn’t handle it with his usual class and calm demeanor.  This trade looks to be an idiotic decision by what ESPN labeled the 28th worst front office in the National Basketball Association.  It’s easy to see why.

Maybe this was the best they could get for Jimmy Butler, but if so, why make the trade at all?  Could something more appealing be there in February when teams feel they’re one piece away from a championship team?  Surely Butler had more value around the league than this.  And it’s blatantly obvious that they wanted no part of a second player in this draft including the 16th pick in this trade and then literally selling the 38th pick of Jordan Bell from Oregon, which had Bulls Twitter going out of its collective mind with excitement, to the reigning NBA champions for $3.5 million dollars.  In case you haven’t been keeping up, this is the Sacramento Kings pick that was conveyed in the Luol Deng trade which means the Chicago Bulls traded then All-Star Luol Deng for literally $3.5 million dollars in cash.  Let that sink in.

Let us not forget the amazing Taj Gibson trade.  At the trade deadline, the Bulls traded Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, AND a 2nd round pick for the disaster that is Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and veteran swingman Anthony Morrow.  They really needed to include a 2nd round pick to sell OKC on that deal?  And you may ask, “Why Cameron Payne?”  Here’s why: Gar Forman was on Tim Floyd’s staff at Iowa State from 1994-1998. Fred Hoiberg was the coach at Iowa State until Chicago hired him.  Steve Prohm is now the head basketball coach at Iowa State.  Steve Prohm was formerly the head coach at Murray State University and coached Cameron Payne.  Are you seeing the connection?  This is business as usual for Chicago Bulls management.

This team is a trainwreck from top to bottom.  It’s apparent that management couldn’t care less about this team or it’s fans. Why would they?  It doesn’t matter how pathetic the Bulls are, fans still sellout the arena and they make bank.  In the last 15 seasons, the Bulls have ranked 5th, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, and now 1st for the past 8 years in attendance.  They infamously had never gone into the luxury tax until a few years ago and worry more about how much they rake in rather than winning.  They fired a well-respected assistant coach in Ron Adams because he criticized and questioned certain personnel moves which began the process of alienating and souring the relationship with the highly regarded despite his flaws Tom Thibodeau.  They insisted on hiring Fred Hoiberg, a role player that didn’t play for a winner in his NBA days and a college coach with limited success, as their head coach for a veteran team that was ready to “win now” and didn’t fit his desired style.  This may be hard to believe, but he immediately alienated the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah, and their best player, Jimmy Butler.  ESPN ranked him as the worst coach in the NBA and he’s frequently shown an inability to earn the respect of his players.  Coaches matter and their reputations matter.  Kevin Durant praised Erik Spoelstra on the Bill Simmons Podcast in April.  Do you think Carmelo Anthony would have entertained joining the Bulls for less if Fred Hoiberg was there then? How many guys have we seen take less to play for the Spurs machine and Gregg Popovich?

Looking at this roster, what do the Bulls actually have?  What’s appealing about this team or this situation?  Team building isn’t just about nailing your draft picks, but having a sound infrastructure in place.  The Bulls do not have that.  They do not have many attractive young players to try and develop.  LaVine could be a Jamal Crawford type IF his recovery goes well from the ACL injury.  Kris Dunn may very well be a bust even if I still like his potential.  Denzel Valentine air-balled a layup on a fast break last year, but I like what he brings overall.  Can he play defense?  Paul Zipser is more highly regarded in Chicago than I think he ought to be. I’m not sure he does anything particularly well.  The Bulls are hoping to retain Mirotic, who has never shown any consistency.  Could he benefit by having the ball more?  I guess we’ll see if he’s re-signed.  Bobby Portis was worse last year than this year and is still atrocious defensively.  Jerian Grant was incompetent in the Playoffs.  I like Lauri Markkanen, but his NBA comparison was either Channing Frye or (hilariously) Nikola Mirotic.  Is that really the first piece to build around?  I couldn’t believe they passed on Malik Monk.  Monk has that Ben Gordon quality to me and could take over games with his scoring.  I like Markkanen’s game, but he doesn’t seem to have that quality.

This isn’t 1999 and the Bulls aren’t facing that type of situation, but honestly, they’re kind of close.  Maybe they’ll land a franchise player in next year’s draft and begin turning this thing around, but for now, the Chicago Bulls are irrelevant in every sense of the word.  It’s going to be a long season.  Hang in there, Bulls Nation.

1 John 2:1

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