Should the Chicago Bulls Even Consider Trading Jimmy Butler?
Things haven't gone well for the Chicago Bulls this season -- to put it nicely.
They still have a 17.6% chance to reach the playoff, according to our algorithms, but there's been a sense of giving up.
That's why, around the 6:15 mark of the Vertical's Two-Man Game video show when senior writer Chris Mannix said, "They look like they've quit on the season," no real qualms could have been made.
But he continued, and that's when the mind bomb was dropped: "I've been hearing rumblings that there is a legitimate interest in Chicago in potentially dealing Jimmy Butler this offseason."
In seeing this for the first time I, along with thousands of other viewers, was in shock. Trade your best player? Huh?
Well, I guess we shouldn't be all that surprised.
No matter the outcome, words and offers of some variety were made. So, maybe we should've seen this coming. And when we see how far the Bulls have fallen (albeit without Butler for 14 games), it actually makes some sense.
Can't Keep Up
New coach Fred Hoiberg, known for his run-and-gun attack at Iowa State over the years, has looked to instill his brand of basketball in Chicago.
His teams at Iowa State really pushed the tempo, relative to the rest of the NCAA.
|Iowa St.||Adj. Pace||Rank|
That same high-speed attack hasn't really translated to success in Hoiberg's first year on the NBA sideline. The Bulls are 12th in the Association in Pace and have failed to maintain efficiency while trying to be uptempo. They rank 25th and 15th in Offensive and Defensive Rating, respectively, and with 101.5 points per game, they are 20th in the league in points per game.
To put that into perspective, Hoiberg's 2013-14 Iowa State Cyclones averaged 83 points per game in just 40 minutes of action. Taken over 48 minutes that's 99.6 points per game -- and that's for a college team.
While Butler possesses ridiculous athleticism and quickness, he's not the type of player to operate in transition or in an uptempo game all that much. According to NBA.com, Butler ranks in the 44th percentile of all players in transition plays.
Butler is also known as a great on-ball defender, which isn't as necessary (or valuable, I suppose) in Hoiberg's system as it was in Tom Thibodeau's grind-it-out approach as Chicago's head coach.
In that same vein, Pau Gasol, who isn't a great defender by any means, isn't made for an uptempo style of play. His screen-and-roll, post up game is made for the halfcourt, and his 35-year-old body is made to play halfcourt defense -- not run back in defensive transition.
Which brings me to my next point.
Bye, Bye Pau
If Butler isn't on this team come the offseason, there's no way -- or no reason -- Gasol returns to the Windy City. Outside of the flashes we see of Derrick Rose, Butler and Gasol seem to be the only Bulls playing with the urgency necessary to compete for an NBA championship.
Butler wants to prove that he's one of the best overall players in the NBA and has yet to taste the sweetness of an NBA title while Gasol is hungry for more after winning two in L.A. with Kobe Bryant.
Not only that, but the two also seem to have a great connection off and, especially, on the court.
The two have become known for their great connections on backdoor cuts and pick-and-roll finds.
If Butler is dealt elsewhere -- maybe Boston as the rumors suggest -- Gasol, an unrestricted free agent this summer, might just follow him. It seems that the only thing missing in Chicago was a supporting cast. Boston has a lot of that, in addition to their ability to offer draft picks galore for Butler's services.
It could be a good fit for both the Bulls and their two stars.
There are two big "buts" that come into play here: health and performance.
Butler is pretty fresh off a scary knee injury that kept him out for about a month. We must also take into account the amount of minutes that Butler has played over the last four seasons in Chicago.
To date, Butler has played 10,644 minutes(!) since the beginning of his 2012-13 campaign. That, along with his recent injury, could scare off a lot of teams, tightening the market for what would be an otherwise highly-coveted player.
Therefore, the Bulls would have to lower their asking price, which I doubt they're willing to do in the current state of the franchise.
That brings me to number two -- Jimmy "Buckets" is really freakin' good at basketball.
According to our power rankings, Butler is the 20th-best NBA player this season, in terms of nERD -- our in-house metric that measures a player's total contribution throughout the season, based on efficiency.
Butler also ranks 15th in Offensive Box Plus-Minus (3.4), 15th in Offensive Win Shares (5.5) and 18th in Value Over Replacement Player (3.2), proving that he's one of the best two-way players and most definitely one of the best shooting guards in the entire NBA.
It would have to be quite a deal for the Bulls to give up a foundational player like Butler. But, for the right price, and in the Bulls' current state as a franchise, they should definitely consider it.