By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Another year, another round of trade speculation surrounding Bulls wing Jimmy Butler.
He’s getting traded. So let’s start throwing crap at the wall and see what hypothetical deals stick.
Wait, how can the Chicago Bulls trade him? He’s the centerpiece of this team and dominating everything in his path right now, dropping 52 on Monday on a Charlotte Hornets team that strikes fear in the hearts of everyone who can name three Charlotte Hornets and basking in crowd chants of “MVP MVP MVP” for a guy on a team that hasn’t shown it’s playoff-worthy. And then he straight up took over Wednesday’s game against the flu-ridden and Irving-and-Love-less Cleveland Cavaliers, sending a message to King James and the Eastern Conference royalty that the Bulls will take you down if your locker room suffers from explosive diarrhea.
Third scenario — does a Butler trade even matter right now? You know, what with the Bulls being as reliable and sound as a sales guy in a bear costume walking on ice and all.
First, the trade rumor. From Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:
League sources say the team made it known weeks ago through backchannels that shooting guard Jimmy Butler is available for the right price. Did his recent 52-point game against the Hornets change the team’s thinking? Not likely. The Bulls, league sources say, have been uncertain about building around Butler even after signing him to a 5-year, $95-million extension. One league executive said GM Gar Forman held off aggressively pursuing a move sooner this season because of the team’s surprising start. Now that the Bulls have leveled off, Butler is apparently back on the market. Along with Rajon Rondo, of course.
OK, percolations in a trash Bulls season. (Eighth currently in the wet jeans Eastern Conference and marching to a first-round exit at best is trash. Fight me.) Maybe a trade of an All-Star will make me feel feelings again. Woo hoo.
Meanwhile, Sean Highkin of The Athletic kicked me and those rumors in the groin, and I barely tingled:
A Bulls source told The Athletic that, despite a Thursday report from Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, the team is not currently shopping Butler or fielding offers for the two-time All-Star.
Having lived long enough with the uber-conservative Bulls brass, I lean toward assuming Butler won’t be traded just because no team will offer enough to make Forman and John Paxson put on big boy tradin’ pants, including Tom Thibodeau’s lustful desires in Minnesota.
But what does trading Butler even do? Set you backward in what’s supposed to have been a plan moving forward. Strip you of the jewel of your squad that GarPax should have built around this offseason in the first place instead of doing this bizarre “three alphas” thing that turned really sour really quickly.
Keeping Butler, though, has you another year lost in your need to rebuild correctly. In the places it mattered, the Bulls got older, saltier and creakier rather than legitimately getting younger and more athletic as promised, with the youth that’s here from recent draft picks looking more and more like misses. The bench is inconsistent at best, and the offense is a league joke in hitting 3-pointers while playing for a coach whose system needs them.
In his Christmas state-of-the-Bulls address to David Schuster of 670 The Score, Paxson addressed the team’s deficiencies.
“The area we really do need to improve is with our athleticism,” he said. “That’s been evident this year as well. We’ve got some vets that know how to play, can score, but you know when you look around the league and how the game is now, that’s an area we have to address. That is a part of our plan, and we’ll try to do that obviously through the draft and try to do it through free agency if we can. You always have the trade option, but right now, our roster is what it is.”
Not what you want to hear midseason when that was the mantra during the eulogies for last season.
And to top all this off, the Bulls were supposed to at least be interesting, but they can’t even make expected drama all that exciting. Rondo is benched, which — besides being a hilarious own by Fred Hoiberg of management and its idiocy in signing the guy who made zero sense from jump — isn’t even drawing typical Rondo-ness. He’s being professional about his DNPs while putting it out there that he’d like to be traded if that doesn’t change at some point, and nobody will trade more than magic beans for him. We were promised (OK, assumed) a soap opera if this strange GarPax idea of getting “younger and more athletic” by signing a 30-year-old Rondo and whatever cartilage is left in Dwyane Wade’s knees at 34 blew up. The letdown has been a letdown.
So I’m not even moved by Butler trade talks because either way what should I be confident about going forward? Management should have built around Butler. They added names instead of prospects, and now what? Deciding to start smartly doing so now is admission of punting away a year of a project. Trading Butler is a regression from what is supposed to be a rebuild and loses a required centerpiece that a constructing team needs for the sake of picks and young studs that then have no star.
But let’s keep firing hypothetical deals for Jimmy Butler into the air. Maybe one of them will move me.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.