5 Reasons Why the Chicago Bulls Should Trade Jimmy Butler
The NBA is obsessed with Jimmy Butler.
You need proof? Minutes after this Monday night Tweet hit the interwebs...
Sources: Chicago’s price for Jimmy Butler remains elevated, but Minnesota has assets and interest. Sides made preliminary contact this week.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 19, 2017
...Twitter went goofy for Jimmy G. Buckets. For the next several hours, Butler trended, and trended, and trended some more, with the majority of the tweets speculating if the Chicago Bulls would indeed move their best player on or before Thursday night's NBA Draft.
The Minnesota Timberwolves aren't the only franchise with dreams of landing the 27-year-old All-Star. ESPN's Marc Stein reported the Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to orchestrate a multi-team deal that would pry Butler away from their Central Division rival, while the Boston Celtics' desire to see Butler in a C's uni has been well documented. Adding to the fun, the Phoenix Suns have also entered the Butler sweepstakes, which was discussed on the latest episode of numberFire's Points in the Paint podcast.
As Woj noted, Chicago will want a haul in any deal, and that's more than understandable. The Marquette product has three years remaining on a super-reasonable contract ($17.5 million in 2017-18, $18.6 million in 2018-19, and $19.8 million in 2019-20), and last year, he balled his brains out.
Jimmy Butler's 6th NBA season put him in some elite company. pic.twitter.com/IGTXxq3nNl
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2017
So why in the name of Johnny "Red" Kerr would it make sense for the Bulls to send Butler packing?
Our nERD metric would find the whole thing ridiculous. (For the uninitiated, nERD is numberFire's measure of a player's total contribution throughout the course of a season, based on their efficiency. Check the nF glossary for more details.) Last season, Butler delivered the fifth highest nERD rating in the NBA (17.3), ahead of Stephen Curry (!), LeBron James (!!), and likely league MVP Russell Westbrook (!!!).
Still, there are plenty of reasons why the Bulls should seriously consider getting what they can for Butler. Here are five:
1. High Value
Butler has improved each season from 2015 to 2017 in all major statistical categories, increasing his points from 20.0 to 23.9, his rebounds from 5.8 to 6.2, and his assists from 3.3 to 5.5.
In terms of advanced stats, his usage rate over the past three campaigns has amped up from 21.6% to 26.5%, but with greater responsibility came greater efficiency, as witnessed by his player efficiency rating (PER) increase from 21.3 to 25.1.
As Butler watchers know, he's an offseason workaholic, so one can fairly assume he'll maintain, if in not increase that level of excellence. If you're a slick GM, you should be able to get a whole flock of assets in exchange for an All-Star who hasn't yet hit his ceiling.
2. The LeBron Factor
Bad news, parity fans: The Cleveland Cavaliers ain't going anywhere.
Whether or not the Cavs manage to acquire Butler or the other object of their affection, Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George, they're going to win the Eastern Conference...or so says ESPN, who gives them a 62.2% making a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals. The Celtics are behind the Cavs at 28.9%, with the Milwaukee Bucks (4.4%), the Detroit Pistons (2.2%), and the Washington Wizards (2.2%) pulling up the rear.
Conspicuously absent from that list? The Chicago Bulls.
If ESPN is right -- if Chicago has literally no chance of winning the East -- this will be another lost season for the proud franchise. So why not get some assets and build for the future, rather than spend another season spinning on the treadmill of mediocrity.
3. No Butler Might Mean No Wade
Yesterday, ESPN reported that Dwyane Wade is leaning towards picking up his player option for 2017-18, which would mean the Bulls would have to pay the injury-prone 35-year-old $24 million, a whole big chunk of money for a dude whose 2016-17 nERD rating was -0.7, the second-lowest of his entire career. (For context, D-Wade hit his high nERD in 2008-09, at 17.4.)
Not great stuff for a team in need of a rebuild.
It's true that Wade likely wouldn't command a $24 million deal from any other team in the Association -- and you can't blame the guy for going for one final payday -- but it might also be true that he wouldn't want to be part of a massive rebuild.
If a Butler deal lands the Bulls a high-end starter, a rotation player, and a couple of high draft picks, would Wade want to hang around? Maybe not, and without Wade, the Bulls will have a wide open salary cap to go with their young and future assets.
(Author's note: The above is kinda-sorta painful, because I loves me some D-Wade.)
4. Future Savings
Assuming he continues racking up All-NBA bids, when Butler's deal is up on 2020, he'll become eligible for a super-max contract, which would mean a five-year, $200 million-plus deal. The estimated 2020 salary cap is $120 million, and Butler's super-max money would eat up about a third of that, which means Chicago won't have a whole lot of flexibility to improve the roster.
If a Butler move nets Chicago multiple high picks in 2017 and/or 2018, they'll have plenty of cap space available to chase Russell Westbrook in 2019 and James Harden in 2020. (Okay, Westy and the Beard are pipe dreams, but let Bulls fans have their fun. They've had a rough couple of decades. Can you say Tyrus Thomas?)
5. Good Deal
The 2017 NBA Draft is one of the most loaded in recent memory, and even though Butler wouldn't land them a chance at Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball or Josh Jackson could be a possibility if Chicago can acquire Boston's pick at three, or Phoenix's at four.
If the Celtics are feeling generous, they could also offer Chicago one of their many, many, many future draft picks, which could put them in position to land one of the blue chip bigs in the 2018 Draft, among them Texas' Mohamed Bamba, Arizona's DeAndre Ayton, or, in a perfect world, Missouri's Kevin Durant-esque Michael Porter Jr.
Listen, it's not easy for a franchise or a fan base to deal with the trade of a perennial All-Star. Ask a long-time Oklahoma City Thunder watcher how they feel about the James Harden trade today, four-plus years after the fact, the chances of getting a positive answer aren't so hot.
But if there's a perfect storm of insurmountable competition, current and future finances, and potentially huge returns, a tough choice has to be made.
And the Chicago Bulls should make that choice while they still have the chance.