The Jimmy Butler trade may not have played out in an ideal manner, but the Chicago Bulls are taking the right approach by embracing a youth movement.
The Chicago Bulls shocked the masses by trading franchise player Jimmy Butler at the 2017 NBA Draft. The general consensus is that Chicago received the weaker end of the deal, but that’s another conversation for another day.
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The unfortunate reality of this situation is that, no matter how we may grade the trade, a youth movement was the only answer for Chicago.
The superstar-studded roster that the Golden State Warriors have pieced together has thrown an un-hittable curveball to teams meddling in mediocrity. Being good isn’t good enough, and being great isn’t something that can be organically attained without the use of the NBA Draft.
Free agency is a crap shoot for all 30 teams, with one unexpected decision by a free agent being all it takes for a team’s vision to disintegrate.
In Chicago’s case, Butler simply wasn’t enough to help the organization escape mediocrity. Gone are the days of Tom Thibodeau making the Bulls a credible team with just about any available talent, and present are the days of Fred Hoiberg struggling to match his predecessor’s success.
Butler may be making the individual leap to elite status, but Chicago continues to be an average team.
Since Thibodeau’s departure in 2015, the Bulls have gone a combined 83-81 with one postseason appearance. That postseason appearance followed a 41-41 regular season and resulted in a first-round loss to the Boston Celtics.
One could argue that Chicago was on pace to win the series, but its hopes rested on the shoulders of a 31-year-old Rajon Rondo—a sign of how unsustainable the formula was.
Today, the Bulls are beginning to look the part of a team with a future. Kris Dunn is a former Top 5 pick with two-way potential, Lauri Markkanen is a sharpshooting big with a versatile scoring skill set, and Cameron Payne is still viewed as a player with potential.
Most importantly: Zach LaVine is a dynamic scoring threat who averaged 18.9 points per game in 2016-17, and is still just 22 years of age.
Throw in promising young big man Bobby Portis, 22, and well-rounded wing Denzel Valentine, 23, and the Bulls have some solid pieces. Assuming it’s lottery-bound in 2018, Chicago could add a rising star to the mix and complete the construction of a sustainable core.
If not, it can at least stop pretending it has a chance to win a championship with an aging roster thrown around the only star on the roster who’s still, you know—a star.
One could argue that free agency could have changed that, but Dwyane Wade opting in crushed any amount of cap space Chicago was hoping to possess.
This isn’t to say that the combination of Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen will lead the Bulls to the promise land. It is, however, an acknowledgement that Chicago wasn’t going to hang a seventh championship banner if it remained on its current trajectory.
If the Bulls continue to embrace the youth movement and make good use of the NBA Draft, then the narrative may change and the results may follow.