It was reported by Chris Mannix from the Vertical that Bulls have “legitimate interest” in trading Jimmy Butler. A majority of basketball fans would ask, “why?”
I’m just as confused. If the Bulls are already looking toward the offseason, have they already given up on their playoff chances? It’s good to want to look towards the future, but weird to do so in the midst of a playoff race.
Up until this year, before the emergence of Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler was considered the best two-way player in the league. One year removed as the NBA’s Most Improved Player, and Butler is averaging 21 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while bearing most of the offensive load for the Bulls.
It’s not enough. The Bulls, headed by rookie Head Coach Fred Hoiberg, are 37-37 and two games behind the Pacers for the eighth seed with eight games to go. Chemistry issues have been a recurring problem throughout the season and are now the reason these trade talks are coming up. Chicago’s struggles this season certainly don’t help.
Chicago’s struggles this season certainly don’t help.
The transition from Thibodeau to Hoiberg is obviously tough for the team. Jimmy Butler especially. Primarily being a defensive player, Thibs was the perfect coach for Butler as he stressed defense heavily. With Hoiberg, defense isn’t a priority, and the team allowing 103 points per game is showing it. When Thibadeau was the coach, Chicago’s points per game against average was it’s higher during his tenure last year at 97.8.
Ever since coming into the league, the Bulls have been seen as contenders in the East, and this is the first year that they aren’t and he’s done everything in his power to will them. Shipping Butler off to another team would be the polar opposite of where the Bulls should want to go.
First, trading Jimmy Butler would send a message that the Bulls’ front office believes in Hoiberg more than Butler. That’s not right. The players play, and Jimmy Butler is in the conversation for the top-10 players in the league and was paid like it over the summer. In the modern-day NBA, coaches are expendable.
I had touched on this briefly earlier, but Butler’s proficiency on both ends of the floor means so much to the Bulls. His ORtg and DRtg per 100 possessions are 115 and 105, respectively, making him one of 11 players to have those with more than 2,000 minutes played. Chicago has used 20 different 5-man lineups this year. Of those 20, just two boast net positive ratings in the points category without Butler.
To piggyback off that, Butler is one of five players to average 20p/5r/4a/1.5s per game this season. And he hasn’t even entered him prime yet. Sure, the road is a little rocky now, but the Bulls should be planning for the next two, three, four seasons and imagining how much of a force Jimmy Butler can turn into.
Maybe even consider putting Derrick Rose‘s name out there. He’s still a good player and would make a great second option on a playoff team, but he’s simply not gelling with the Bulls anymore.