The Bulls restored a little bit of order with a convincing win over the 76ers (without Joel Embiid) on Sunday, but make no mistake: this is a team that appears to be operating on a level somewhere between friction and chaos.
And that means this could be an opportune time for the Wolves to rekindle the talks with the Bulls about Jimmy Butler that reportedly surfaced before this past June’s draft.
Several months back, the speculation was that the No. 5 pick was part of the package the Wolves were dangling in an attempt to reunite Butler — an emerging scorer and tenacious two-way player — with former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. It never happened, of course, as the Wolves settled on drafting and keeping Kris Dunn while the Bulls tried to remake their roster on the fly by signing Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo.
The Bulls have lurked on the fringes of the Eastern Playoff race for most of the season, hovering around .500. That was hardly a disaster but hardly what they imagined.
Then things took a decided turn last week when Butler and Wade publicly criticized their teammates for a perceived lack of effort … and then Rondo responded with an Instagram post questioning the team’s leadership. All three players were fined by the team; Butler and Wade were benched to start Friday’s game against the lowly Heat, which ended in a blowout home loss for the Bulls in which Butler went just 1-for-13 from the field.
Ugly. But just how ugly is it?
Would the Bulls legitimately be interested in trading Butler, who is having his most efficient season while averaging a career-high 24.5 ppg? I have no idea. Under normal circumstances, a player with his credentials and age (27) who is under contract for two more years beyond this season at a comparatively reasonable salary (between $17.5 million and $20 million per year) would be a cornerstone player around whom you would build.
But if the Bulls continue to hover around .500 and Butler’s frustration continues to occasionally go from a simmer to a boil, Chicago could decide to shake things up.
Would the Wolves want to trade for Butler? I sure would.
He’s not a kid, but he’s not past his prime. He’s a dedicated two-way player. He’s not a rental given his contract status. And his main frustration in Chicago seems to stem from a perceived lack of effort on the part of his teammates, a 110 percent mindset that would not only be welcome in Minnesota but would mesh with that of Thibodeau.
I’d absolutely consider dealing Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine and maybe even one more player not named Andrew Wiggins or Karl-Anthony Towns for Butler — who can also facilitate given his average of 6.5 assists per game, which would take pressure off the young Wolves point guards left behind. I’m not sure that’s the perfect trade for both sides, but it is a reasonable one.
And if the Wolves are still interested in Butler, there might be no time like the present to make their best offer.