Link to aforementioned article can be found here: https://letmebfrankblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/the-bulls-must-trade-jimmy-butler-before-the-draft/
No disrespect to my esteemed colleague, Brian Franklin, but trading the core of the Bulls franchise would be a complete overreaction to the piss-poor season we had to watch this past season. Let’s get this out of the way, Jimmy is a top 15 player in the NBA that excels on both ends of the court, and he’s under contract for until at least 2019 at a very economical salary, compared to what we’ll be seeing star players get paid in the next few years. He is what you pray a top-5 draft pick becomes, so why would you trade him for a high pick now after he has become so much more than we expected? Though I’ve come to loathe GarPax, they truly struck gold grabbing Butler as the 30th pick in the 2011 draft.
Mr. Franklin does make a valid point that on an aging Bulls team that couldn’t even make the playoffs last year, the prime years of Butler’s career would be wasted on a middling franchise, the purgatory of the NBA. There is no doubt that dealing Jimmy G. Buckets would signal that the Bulls are going into a complete rebuild, accompanied by the imminent departure of Derrick Rose. But since we have spent years now criticizing the personnel moves made by the Bulls decision makers, Gar Forman and John Paxson, why should we put any faith in their ability to head a rebuild? Adding a piece or two to the Bulls current roster over the next few years seems like a much more reasonable solution.
And looking at the makeup of the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are seemingly only a move away from being relevant again in the playoffs. The Raptors may lose one or both of Derozan and Biyombo, the Heat are aging, may lose Whiteside to free agency, and Chris Bosh may never be allowed to play in an NBA game again. Additionally, the Celtics have been “aggressively shopping for a superstar” (i.e. Jimmy Butler) for years now to no avail. Given all that, it shouldn’t take a colossal effort to bring the Bulls back into contention next season.
One such move that could make an impact for this roster is by going after an athletic center in free agency this summer. This Bulls haven’t had a center who’s been able to leave the ground since the glory days of Tyson Chandler and his trusty frontcourt mate Steady Eddy Curry, and it would be much appreciated in the fast pace offense that coach Fred Hoiberg attempted to install last year. Jimmy and Derrick would only benefit to having a big man to run with them on the break and fight for offensive boards.
A few candidates that fit the bill here are Hassan Whiteside, Festus Ezeli and Bismack Biyombo. Whiteside is a pipe dream, but Ezeli and Biyombo could be viable candidates for Chicago. Fans will gripe over the inflated salary these 3 are inevitably going to command, harkening back to the Ben Wallace and Carlos Boozer signings, but age is a key difference between our past free agency mishaps and the opportunity that lies in front of us. Whiteside, Ezeli and Biyombo are 26, 26 and 23, respectively, and would be able to develop with the core of Jimmy, Mirotic, McDermott, Portis & our 2016 draft selection.
With Gasol on his way out and Noah possibly following him, the Bulls would absolutely have enough cap space to offer one of these centers to a competitive contract in the free agency market. If Gasol, Noah, Brooks and Moore all depart, Chicago will have around $20 million in room under the cap, and a significant amount more in the following season, considering that we only have Butler and a combination of team options and qualifying offers on the books for 2017. We will have this cap space even without trading Jimmy, and he can absolutely be the franchise player we build a roster around.
Year 2 of a healthy Butler and Rose backcourt along with a more experienced Hoiberg should come together to improve upon an offense that ranked in the lower half of the league last season. The departures of Gasol & Noah should speed up the offense and also open up space in the paint that both of our guards will need to operate effectively. A starting lineup of Rose, Butler, McDermott, Mirotic and one of Whiteside, Biyombo or Ezeli would be pretty damn good. This, along with a bench that boasts Gibson, Dunleavy, Portis, and a promising Cristiano Felicio, I see no reason why the Chicago Bulls can’t be competitive in the 2016-2017 NBA season. That being said, I welcome any Bulls trade rumor that may pop up this summer, because what would an NBA offseason be without some Chris Broussard “multiple sources are telling me” tweets?