We have been here before with Jimmy Butler (allegedly) on the trade market. As we approached last year’s trading deadline and even during the summer the rumors persisted that the Bulls were shopping him. Then as in now, it made zero sense. Franchise players are hard to come by, impossible even. If you look at the teams who have not been in the Eastern Conference Finals in a decade (Hornets, Bucks, Wizards, Pistons, Knicks, 76ers, Nets) it is because they lack a franchise star. So if you get one you do whatever you can to keep him, particularly when you believed in him so much you signed him to a max deal two years ago. Once you start selling off talent you are sending your franchise into irrelevancy from which it takes years to recover. Between Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose was a 10 year drought. Is that what the Bulls are asking for just because they want to legitimize and enable their coach whose preferred style isn’t the Jimmy Butler way?
The Bulls lost to OKC on Monday night. They were never in the game and trailed by 15 at the half. The Thunder bigs destroyed the Bulls. Steven Adams shot 78% and off the bench Enes Kanter was equally as dominant, 81%. Between the two of them they made 20 out of 25 shots. Although Taj Gibson made 50% of his shots he only took 8 of them and Robin Lopez was pretty pathetic, 1-7.
Jimmy Butler, after an incredible week, didn’t make a shot and his off night proved the point that when he isn’t on, the Bulls can’t win. As much as the Thunder are considered a one man team it is really the Bulls who are Jimmy Butler and that’s it. They go as he goes.
But the Bulls are shopping him. Allegedly.
Perhaps it is true the Bulls front office is just throwing whatever they can think of to the wall to make it stick without a real plan. They have no process like the 76ers. They shift with the wind. The moves of the Bulls front office haven’t panned out in recent years so why should we trust them? For selfish and arrogant reasons they 86’d Tom Thibodeau and since then haven’t made the playoffs. The Bulls may make the playoffs this year or they may not. What is keeping them relevant is Jimmy Butler. He is single handedly pushing the Bulls towards the playoffs, meaning a seed 6-8.
However, there is this truth. In the NBA you have to be very good or very bad. The middle is the killing field because you can never really get better. Even with a franchise player like Jimmy Butler, as a team, the Bulls are not very good. They are too incomplete. Not enough three point shooting. Too slow. Point guard issues. A Dwyane Wade who is a good player but no longer great on the floor; off of it he has been a remarkable leader and model for Butler to learn from. So if the Bulls aren’t good now, and there is no personnel help coming in, how long can this treading water last before frustration sets in on all sides.
This isn’t what Fred Hoiberg signed on for. He wanted a run up and down, fast paced D’Antoni-esque offense that most of the league runs. The Bulls are archaic. But they have Jimmy Butler.
It is the best and the worst of times as a Bulls fan. You know each game is a possible win because of Butler and you know long term playoff chances are out the question because one man teams have a one and done playoff shelf life. So it is a bartering of values. Win now so you can lose in April. Or, lose now by trading Butler so you can win in June (draft lottery).
But that is also where luck is involved. Who says the Bulls have any knowledge on drafting players, even if they were in the lottery. Stuff happens. Players get injured or they don’t perform up to their potential or they have reached their ceiling in college. Who can predict what the Bulls and a 19 year old one-year college player can do?
The Bulls fans are a patient bunch which is why, if the Jimmy Butler trade talk is for real, the front office feels emboldened. Chicago isn’t L.A. In L.A. they just won’t come, they won’t support a losing team. Bulls fans will. They did. When the Bulls won 13 games, the seats were full. When they won 17 games, the seats were fill. When they won 15 games, the seats were full. When they won 21 games, the seats were full. Whey they won 30 games, the seats were full. When they won 23 games, the seats were full. The Bulls fans are passionate, energetic and loyal, above all. They won’t quit the team and Gar Forman knows that.
And so he floats around this Jimmy Butler trade lie instead of forcing Fred Hoiberg to coach who he has. If he is a good coach, he can adapt his style to the player. A bigger problem than Jimmy Butler and his style of play is the Bulls front office and who they surround Jimmy Butler with. This is the same organization that signed Rajon Rondo. This is the same franchise who let Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson walk.
Nothing is off the table when it comes to the Bulls.
photo via llananba