Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler. What’s next? (Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press)

The 2017 offseason wasted no time getting into full swing, starting on draft night. The Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick to Minnesota in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and the 7th overall pick which came to be Lauri Markkanen from the University of Arizona. On the surface, this trade appears to be a fleecing on the Timberwolves end, no? I mean you get a certified All NBA guard for some young players who haven’t quite exactly proven themselves yet.

The thing about surfaces, though, is that something much deeper lies beneath and until you explore your perception is skewed. I’ve spoken to many fellow Bulls fans and made note of the reactions on social media so that I could properly address the concerns of them all. Hopefully, if you’re at the proverbial ledge with your Chicago Bulls fandom, I can help you come back inside a la Jim Carrey in “Yes, Man“.

For every trade negotiation, in any situation, the goal is to ‘win’ by getting equal or ideally better value for your assets. Nobody wants to be the “you got THIS for THAT?” story. Yet, most would agree that losing a battle to ultimately win the war is a sound strategy. For Chicago, an equal value in this trade would have been to receive one of the other 14 players Butler shared All NBA honors with, which was far fetched at best. Instead, they chose to move their star player when his value was at its absolute highest to date and get an adequate return relative to what they would’ve received once they started to lose leverage.

Over the years I’ve noticed that once a star player enters the last 2 years of his deal before the imminent big pay day, the team faces a critical decision. Do we take the necessary steps to build around him or build this thing from the ground up by dealing him? Look no further than what the Indiana Pacers received for Paul George after deciding not to move him a year prior if you don’t see the truth in this.

Bulls fans may have hated the fact that Derrick Rose was dealt around this time last year to the New York Knicks, but in hindsight, they should consider themselves absolutely lucky. Obtaining a serviceable rim protector, defender, and rebounder in Robin Lopez along with a contract that would be eventually dumped in Jose Calderon, that’s a win considering NY could have waited you out another year and let you lose Rose for nothing. Bottom line is, when the suits calling the shots hint at the current state of the team being on a treadmill, so to speak, it’s best to cut your losses and ironically increase your losses on the court by going full rebuild mode.

Unless you’re a team like the Houston Rockets who are seemingly on the cusp on competing for a title, in which case the more you win the more likely it is to add another star, know yourself and make the necessary changes.

Chicago Bulls
John Paxson, Gar Forman. End of season press conference. (Jim Young/Chicago Tribune via AP)

“The thing with Jimmy is, all of us would love to get another superstar player to go along with him, but with the situation we’re in with the salaries we have, that’s a difficult thing for us to manage.’’ –John Paxson, 2016-2017 end of season address.

When your front office says things like they’d “love” to make moves “…but”, the writing is pretty much on the walls. It says they’ve more than likely realized they’re at an impasse and it’s time to move on. As a Bulls fan, that should be music to your ears for a few reasons.

Jimmy Butler was great enough to carry a team to the playoffs that were not necessarily a ‘playoff team’. See, simply winning enough games to qualify for postseason play doesn’t mean you’re equipped to be in the discussion of the contenders. It says more about the competition in your conference when mediocrity is celebrated as superiority.

Making the playoffs as an 8th seed with 40 to 42 wins means an imminent first round exit with a summer in which you’re drafting around #16-#19 in the first round. Basketball purgatory is being good enough to barely make the playoffs, subsequently never being bad enough to actually improve through the draft; thus being left to tread water.

By taking this route, we get what we’ve all been asking for; a clear direction. Go with the young guys, let them figure it out as a unit, build through the draft. Now, while the rebuild is something to believe in, the front office in charge of leading said rebuild leaves reason to doubt the probability of success. I’ve been vocal about the lack of faith in Gar Forman and John Paxson, with good reason, but making this move gives me a bit of optimism.

I mean, at the end of the day do you really want to be the “at least we made the playoffs!” guy/girl while you watch other organizations build toward a legit future? Chicago Bulls fans, I ask that you strap in and enjoy the ride now. We’re gonna be bad for a while, but there’s a method to the madness. Glass half full or half empty, make sure to drink responsibly. Double entendre, don’t even ask me how.


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