Chicago Bulls fans went into full panic mode June 22 when beloved shooting guard Jimmy Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 16 pick in an NBA Draft Night blockbuster. In return, the Bulls received point guard Kris Dunn, shooting guard Zach LaVine and the No. 7 pick.
Bulls fans were not impressed with the deal. The hashtag #FireGarPax –– referring to the front office duo of General Manager Gar Forman and Executive Vice President John Paxson –– started trending within minutes of the deal becoming official.
Despite what fans were saying on social media, I think this deal can work in the Bulls’ favor. Hear me out.
Butler was the centerpiece of the deal; sending him to Minnesota reunites him with former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. In 2015, Butler won the Most Improved Player Award, averaged 20 points per game, made his first all-star team, was named second-team All Defense and led the NBA in minutes per game all under Thibodeau. Clearly, Minnesota fans –– including Loyola men’s basketball recruit Carson Shanks –– are excited for their new guard.
While “GarPax” traded away the Bulls’ best player, the team came away with a decent haul in this deal. Dunn had a mediocre season for the T-Wolves, but LaVine has the potential to light up the stat sheets. The No. 13 pick in the 2014 draft, LaVine is probably best known for winning the 2016 dunk contest.
Lavine’s numbers in his three seasons with the Timberwolves aren’t bad, either. A career 44.5 percent shooter, he was averaging 18.9 points per game last season before a torn ACL ended his season Feb. 3. The Bulls have said he is “progressing appropriately,” and they could have a dangerous weapon on the wing if he comes back healthy.
The Bulls used their seventh pick to draft former University of Arizona center Lauri Markkanen. At first reaction, fans (including myself) had never heard of the Swedish-born player.
In his lone season for Arizona last year, Markkanen averaged 15.6 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting at a 49.2 percent rate. Moreover, he averaged 42.7 percent from beyond the three-point line, which is unheard of for a player of his stature.
Last season, the Bulls started 7-foot center Robin Lopez, who didn’t attempt a three-pointer. Bringing in Markkanen will allow the Bulls to start two 7-foot players –– a sharpshooter in Markkanen and a presence down low in Lopez.
I’ve criticized “GarPax” on a number of moves this year. Trading Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder for practically nothing still stings. However, I’m on their side for this one.
I watched the Cubs go through the rebuilding phase. I saw them trade away my favorite players for a bunch of young guys who needed development. This is just part of the growing pains that come with a rebuild.
Would it be nice to be in “win-now” mode? Absolutely. But at this point, the Bulls have to worry about developing a team. Markkanen and LaVine can be key in getting this team back to the NBA Finals.
The fans need to have patience with the process. This team is not going to be the Bulls of the 1990s led by the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan, but it will be a team in transition as it looks to get back to those winning ways.
While I’m going to miss watching “Jimmy G. Buckets” play in the United Center, I see a lot of potential in the team after this trade. I just hope “GarPax” can run the team better. But that’s a rant for another time.