LION Newspaper

Trade Talk

Luke Lusson, Sports Editor

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This past NBA offseason was crazy. An abundance of big names were moved to teams attempting to throw themselves into the championship conversation, thus continuing the “superteam” era. At the other end of the spectrum are the hometown Chicago Bulls.

Just about every move made by the Bulls front office has been torn to shreds by fans. The most recent and notable example comes from this past summer’s NBA Draft, where the Bulls traded away Jimmy Butler and their 16th pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick, where the Bulls took the 7-foot shooter Lauri Markkanen from the University of Arizona.

Immediately after the deal, the vast majority of Bulls fans exploded with anger. I was not one of them.

Listen, I understand why so many people were mad. The Bulls traded away their best player for a guard coming off a torn ACL (LaVine), a former top 10 pick who had a disappointing rookie season (Dunn) and a rookie big man that many consider a question mark with his unique style of play for his size (Markkanen). Also, the Bulls sent the Timberwolves another valuable asset, their 16th overall pick in that very draft.

Okay, I get it. The Bulls gave up a lot for some young players that have yet to prove themselves. In the short term, this deal certainly favors the Timberwolves, who gained an All-Star guard without giving up any of their core players. For the Bulls, this deal will make them considerably worse for the next few years to come. But, let’s think in the long term instead.

In today’s NBA, there are three types of teams: the super-teams, the rebuilders, and those that hang out somewhere in the middle. What’s the worst place for a team to be in this spectrum? The middle. The exact place where our Chicago Bulls have sat for the past several years.

If you’re a fan of making the playoffs every year but having little to no chance of actually making a run for the title, then the Bulls have been your favorite team. In fact, they have made the playoffs eight of the past nine years, yet have only made one trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in that span. If you’re just going to lose round one or two, what’s the point of even being in the playoffs? You might as well make some moves to get some draft picks rather than giving your fans false hope and going nowhere in the playoffs year after year.

Sorry to break it to you Bulls fans, but the Bulls were not going to win a title with Butler leading their team. Don’t get me wrong; Butler is an outstanding player, one who will go on to have a great career. However, he’s not on the same level of the players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard, who have consistently carried their teams to deep playoff runs.

This is why I am not opposed to the Butler trade. With no more Butler, the Bulls have stepped foot on a new and better path that may actually lead them somewhere meaningful in the long run. There’s no doubt that this team will miss Butler’s play, but his absence will open the door to the younger players and will set up the Bulls for some future top draft picks.

The biggest piece of criticism I have in regards to this trade was the timing of it. Had the Bulls not waited until this past summer to deal Butler, they could have gotten much more in return. Take last year’s trade deadline for example. At that point, the Boston Celtics were a perfect trading partner: they were looking for a proven player that could give them a legitimate shot at taking down the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs and they had countless young assets that they could give to the Bulls in return. Instead, the Bulls waited until draft night and gained what most people see as nothing compared to their All-Star guard. Waiting to deal Butler, combined with the random signings of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, only delayed the rebuild process and diminished the value of the players that the Bulls could receive in return.

Although they waited a while, I’m still glad the Bulls finally took a risk and made the move that sets them down a more promising and distinctive path. Don’t be surprised if they rank among the worst teams in the league for the next few years, but just remember that they are headed in the right direction.

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Trade Talk