NBA rumors indicate that Jimmy Butler is being shopped around by the Chicago Bulls, and the Philadelphia 76ers may be interested in him.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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The Philadelphia 76ers have yet to make any official trades since the rumor season has started to heat up, but everyone who has paid a lick of attention to the NBA this year is well aware that the team needs to make some moves to save their future. The roster is crawling with big men, and those big men just simply can’t work well together on offense or on defense well enough to justify keeping them all on the same team.
Since this season started, fans have been looking for the team to make a trade to ensure that Joel Embiid’s skills are not neutralized on the court by playing either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel alongside him. Still, the team has waited patiently for a deal that is pleasing to them and worth their time for their lottery pick big men, but to no avail — yet.
Rumors in the NBA world are really starting to heat up this January, just like they seem to do every year around this time. As the new year strikes, the trade deadline suddenly seems to creep up at a faster rate than it was before, and teams get squeamish.
There are a few types of teams who are generally involved in trades. One, we know teams that have too many of one type of player generally try and fix that issue, and have seen that firsthand with Philadelphia.
Two, teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers who are looking for some additional pieces to make themselves a bigger threat in the postseason.
And three, teams that are looking to begin a rebuild or reshape of sorts mid-season, such as the Atlanta Hawks and now, apparently, the Chicago Bulls.
It has been reported by Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report that the Bulls are shopping their two-time All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler around the league, which, at first glance, sounds absurd. But perhaps the Bulls are just ready to move into a new chapter, and getting rid of Butler will help them do just that.
But is it likely? Are the Bulls and Sixers trade partners this year? It might seem like a long shot to some, and rightfully so — the Bulls and Sixers are on opposite ends of the spectrum right now. There is good reason to believe the Sixers may be able to pull Butler away from the Bulls, though.
Dec 11, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) high fives teammates during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Pieces for a rebuild
The only reason I can think that the Bulls would want to trade Butler is if they’re diving right into full rebuild mode. As premature as that seems, it also seems premature to trade Butler, so that all kind of adds up.
Butler undoubtedly has a high value around the league, but the Bulls have built around him, and trying to move him rather than someone like Rajon Rondo who has been probably the least exciting member of their backcourt this season is indicative of the team trying to do a facelift, not just a touchup.
The Sixers are the right partner to deal with if the Bulls really do want to do a facelift, as they have been a rebuilding team for years that have a lot of pieces that can help a team looking to start rebuilding get going on the right foot.
Over the last three years, the Sixers have brought in a ton of draft picks, and have also made trades to ensure that they have future draft picks as well. Not only do the Sixers own their own draft pick this year, but they will likely acquire the Los Angeles Lakers pick (as long as it falls outside of the top three overall), and have two 2017 second round draft picks, two second round draft picks from other teams in 2018, and the Sacramento Kings first round pick in 2019.
On top of that, they have their own picks to work with and deal as they please as well.
It’s not just draft picks that the Sixers could use to lure the Bulls into a trade. Those draft picks turn into prospects, and those prospects have to be developed. When playing with so many draft picks over a short span of years, it’s kind of like a team incubator. The players drafted won’t be developed and ready for success in the NBA. The Bulls may be ready to rebuild, but may not be quite as patient as the Sixers were over the last three years. So instead of trading just draft picks for Butler, the Sixers could offer some of their already somewhat developed prospects as well.
Nik Stausaks has looked solid this year so far, and is in his third season. Robert Covington is in the midst of a huge slump but overall has had a positive career for what people assumed he was before he was on the Sixers. The team also has players like Richaun Holmes and T.J. McConnell to deal as well, and that’s on top of Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor who would likely be outgoing as part of this trade.
The Sixers may be less likely to give up Dario Saric, but he is an option as a part of a trade to be dealt for Butler as well.
On top of draft picks and players that are in the midst of development, the Sixers also have a few players stashed overseas that can be enticing for a team looking to start their rebuild. Furkan Korkmaz is the most attractive player overseas at the moment.
If any team is looking to start their rebuild and wants a “we want to revamp our entire team starter pack” the Sixers are the team to deal with. The Sixers could deal a mix of draft picks, already partially developed prospects, and draft rights to stashed players overseas.
Dec 8, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Dario Saric (9) celebrates after a three point basket against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The 76ers defeated the Pelicans 99-88. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Versatility in pieces available
Secondly, the Sixers have a lot of versatile pieces on their roster, and a lot of pieces that can fit into different areas of any offensive or defensive scheme. These versatile pieces would be attractive parts of making a deal, and the Bulls could have their pick at any two or three players that they wanted in return for a player with such a high value like Butler.
So not only can the Bulls kick-start their rebuild with some really solid prospects that are already past the very beginning stages of their development, but they have their pick at prospects that can fit best with what they want to do over the next several years.
If it’s shooting that the Bulls want to bolster, they could go after Nik Stauskas, Dario Saric, or Robert Covington (although his shot is very hard to sell as of late).
If they want to jump on the 3-point shooting big man wave and take some time to develop Richaun Holmes further, he could be a threat from beyond the arc (as well as around the rim) if he is given more minutes.
If it’s lock-down defense they want, T.J. McConnell is a nuisance to even the quickest guards, and Robert Covington has been solid from the wing this year on the defensive end.
If they’re looking to go really young, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has some really bright moments when he sees the court, and could be a decent player on both ends of the floor. He’s certainly a project, as he is a rookie coming from overseas, but if the Bulls want to spend some time on him, he could be a solid addition as well.
Saric and TLC both are rookies, and both players can fit into so many different areas on the court because of the widespread talent they possess.
Whatever it is the Bulls want to do with this potential rebuild — that has yet to be set in stone, them rebuilding is mostly my takeaway and speculation based on the recent Butler trade rumors — the Sixers have it, and they have it in more than just draft picks, they have actual NBA players who have already been put in the incubator for quite some time.
Dec 1, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) and center Jahlil Okafor (8) celebrate a score against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The 76ers won 103-91. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
In need of a big?
The Chicago Bulls don’t have a ton of options in the center position, and could use a youthful face in that position. At the moment, Robin Lopez is anchoring their frontcourt, but has been, for the most part, less than exciting this season. In 28 minutes per contest, Lopez is averaging 9.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game. He’s also shooting 48.6 percent from the field.
He’s been decent at protecting the rim, however, averaging nearly 2 blocks per game.
Below Lopez, though, the Bulls have just Cristiano Felicio who is getting just 13.5 minutes per game. There is an argument to be made that the Bulls need a decent backup center to move forward with. Nikola Mirotic has been the backup power forward for the Bulls frontcourt this season, and has been a decent shooter from beyond the arc, which would indicate that he’s not a bad option when paired with either of the current Sixers bigs, since they both operate close to the rim on offense.
If the Bulls were to make a deal with the Sixers, there is no doubt that they would love to move one of their big men. Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor are on the block, and the Bulls would be able to take their pick if they’re giving up Jimmy Butler in return for them.
A frontcourt of either Mirotic and Noel or Okafor would be good on offense, but Mirotic and Okafor would probably not be great defensively. Mirotic paired with Noel seems to be the most optimal combination between the three on both ends of the floor.
The trade probably wouldn’t be straight up for Noel or Okafor, and would include some mix of the draft picks and young talent mentioned in the previous slides.
Apr 19, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) is guarded against Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) near the Atlanta Hawks logo in the fourth quarter of game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 89-72. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Sixers can pull another team in
The last way the Sixers can persuade the Bulls to give them Butler is to bring another team in. There have been plenty of teams who have reportedly put their players on the trading block, and the Bulls may find that they are more interested in some of those teams’ players instead of the Sixers selection of players, prospects, and draft picks.
The Hawks are a team that seems to be selling just about everyone right now, so they come to mind first.
Below is an example that passes the ESPN trade machine. The Sixers have to ship out a lot of players in this scenario, but that could possibly be limited more if the trade machine was able to account for draft picks, which the Sixers could trade as well.
This probably isn’t the most realistic scenario out there, but it’s an example of how a third team can come into play for the Bulls and Sixers.
If a third team comes in, there’s still a possibility the Sixers can end up with Butler. It would be a hard deal to navigate, but the Sixers could find a team that could take the pieces Philadelphia wants to give up for Butler, and give them to that third team, while the third team gives the Bulls what they’re looking for, and the Sixers end up with Butler.
This type of trade would have a lot of variables and moving pieces, but more often than not, that’s what trades in the NBA end up being. Whether or not the Sixers can convince both the Bulls and another team to get in on a deal that results in Philly getting Butler is unknown — and perhaps a long shot — but that’s one way the Sixers could make their chances much greater at getting Butler this year.
Talking about it in this way seems to make it seem impossible, and in all reality, a deal where the Sixers end up with Jimmy Butler is a long shot unless the Bulls are sold on doing a complete face lift. Given that they just brought in Dwyane Wade this offseason, that doesn’t seem likely, but who knows, the Bulls could be overreacting in a huge way to the tough last few weeks the team has had.