Grading the Trade: Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves

The Deal:

Chicago Bulls acquire PG Kris Dunn, G Zach LaVine and the draft rights to 7th overall pick Lauri Markkanen.

Minnesota Timberwolves acquire SF Jimmy Butler and the draft rights to 16th overall pick Justin Patton.

Chicago Bulls

Most everyone who followed the Chicago Bulls knew that the relationship between Jimmy Butler and the front office was strained, and was likely heading towards a trade of the three-time All Star. If he truly was unhappy (which it sure seemed like), and ownership was insistent on keeping Fred Hoiberg as head coach (which obviously they were), then trading Butler would make sense.

To be clear, I do NOT have any issue with the Bulls trading their best player, as mediocrity has been the undoing of many a coach and general manager. Often times, a front office can buy themselves a couple of extra years by making the move to rebuild, which it appears that Gar Forman is doing. Where I do take issue is what the Bulls got in return for their best player.

Zach LaVine is as explosive an athlete as there is in the league, and has been a better-than-advertised shooter over the past two seasons (45.5% FG, 38.8% 3PT). He is coming off of an ACL tear which happened this past February, and while ACL injury recovery has improved tremendously over the past 10-15 years, there is no guarantee he will regain all of the explosiveness that made him a Dunk Contest champion.

The 5th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Kris Dunn struggled to find minutes behind starting point guard Ricky Rubio. Even when he did find the court, Dunn struggled mightily on offense (37.7% FG, 28.8% 3PT), averaging just 3.8 points and 2.4 assists per game. Defensively, Dunn was solid, posting 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks in just 17.1 minutes per game to go along with a defensive +/- of 1.5.

The Bulls also acquired the 7th overall pick in the draft, which they used on Arizona center Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen will give the Bulls a floor-spacing big man that can also rebound well, but I believe he will struggle defensively early. You can read a more complete breakdown of Markkanen here.

Minnesota Timberwolves

As mentioned in my link to the winners/losers column above, this was highway robbery by the Timberwolves. While both Dunn and LaVine have shown some promise in certain areas, neither had shown themselves to be a key piece to the team’s future. While the team did move back to the 16th pick, they were able to acquire a three-time All-Star who still has two more years of team control on his contract.

Butler developed into the player he is now under Timberwolves’ head coach Tom Thibodeaux’s watch when he was the head coach in Chicago, and will not only provide an immense talent upgrade, but also a veteran leader in an otherwise very young locker room.

At 16, Minnesota was able to acquire Creighton freshman big man Justin Patton. While he needs to add strength (just 229 pounds despite being 7’0″ tall) and is still quite raw on both sides of the ball, he has shown a solid jump shot that could eventually get stretched to the NBA three-point line.

Patton will likely see some time behind Karl-Anthony Towns as he continues to develop, but could easily become a rotation player once he becomes more consistent on defense, something Thibodeaux requires from all of his players, but especially rookies trying to crack the playing rotation.

Grade for Bulls: D-

Grade for Timberwolves: A


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