Lets wait and see. The trade has been roundly panned by the media and “experts” yet no one has played a basketball game yet. Without using that easy cop-out, lets analyze this a bit further…
Butler is a top 15 player on a great contract (for 2 more years) he will be 30 when he signs his next contract which will be a max deal which, if he had stayed on the Bulls and continued to put up really stats would have meant a “super max” contract (200+ Million for 5 years) it is the kind of deal that cripples the salary cap and kills roster building while also looking horrific as Butler falls off. Trading him this off-season was the peak time to do so, further by starting the rebuild NOW rather than the trade deadline the Bulls will have helped their own lottery chances.
Part of what people point out as weaknesses to the trade is optics, they got Dunn who struggled in year 1, Lavine who is coming off an injury and the Lauri Markkanen who gets less love as a prospect than I believe he deserves. But what if we call it #5 last year, Lavine and another top 10 lottery pick for Butler? It at least starts to SOUND better.
The Bulls needed to move Butler, waiting until the trade deadline in the hopes they MIGHT get a better deal than this merely kicks the can further down the road and the Bulls management loses more and more leverage. This trade begins the rebuild now and does so with some solid pieces who far better fit what Hoiberg wants to do. The Bulls are now faster, younger, more athletic and have a couple shooters — from one trade! Lavine likely can replicate Butler’s offense, Dunn already showed flashes as an elite athlete who scored, distributed, stole and blocked shots and Markkanen is the type of modern big that fits space and pace perfectly. Will the Bulls take lumps as they wait for Lavine to return and Markkanen adjusts to the NBA game? Yup. But thats ok because the Bulls have bought into a direction — rebuilding.
There is nothing worse in sports than being mediocre, its the whole point of “The Process” that the best way to get a star is to draft one, the best way to build a roster is through cost controlled assets that allow flexibility to build the rest of the roster. Continuing to get to the 8th seed (or just outside it) merely ensures that you stay mediocre forever. As a fan I want to know we are either building towards having a championship or fighting for one — last year I knew the Bulls had 0% chance of winning the championship but were also too good to get a meaningful pick which simply mean purgatory for the team and myself. Now? I am excited. We have some pieces, we will be bad for a few seasons but if the Bulls draft well (which, to their credit they have done reasonably well drafting going back for years now — note: I didnt say perfect, but far more hits than misses.
Keeping Butler isnt an option, he had to go to begin the rebuild. I take Gar/Pax at their word that this was the best offer after speaking with a few clubs (sounds like at least Suns and Celtics). Those ripping the trade say the Bulls didnt get enough, maybe they didnt, I did not love giving the #16 in the trade but I think ultimately that is of little consequence. But if this wasnt enough, what were the odds they would get significantly better? Time was not on the Bulls side.
Rip the trade if you want, but from a roster building, system fitting and future-looking perspective I like the Bulls roster FAR more today than I did yesterday and I actually have something to look forward to now.