Bulls: Why Jimmy Butler Needs to Stay in Chicago

With the NBA trade deadline approaching tomorrow, speculation about a potential Jimmy Butler trade has increased greatly. Although it appears that Butler won’t be traded, multiple reports have revealed that the Bulls engaged in trade talks with teams about Butler. A move of this gravity would definitely alter the entire direction and makeup of the franchise. I will take a look at why it probably won’t alter it for the better.

First of all, it looks like Butler will remain in Chicago for the time being. We are less than 24 hours away from the league trade deadline, and with more recent reports claiming the Bulls don’t plan on dealing Butler, the chances of a trade happening are slim. Take this from Chicago Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson, who said this on Twitter yesterday:

Takes 1 blockbuster offer to change, but Bulls are rebuffing Butler inquiries/have told teams they have no plans to trade him, per source.

Regardless of the end result, it’s clear that the Bulls entertained the idea of trading away their best player for younger pieces and draft picks. The team most heavily rumored to pursue Butler is the Boston Celtics, who have young players like Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder, and a high 2017 first round draft pick, one that could possibly land within the top-three, or maybe even first overall, to offer. But are these chips enough to snatch Butler from the Bulls? They shouldn’t be.

First and foremost, Jimmy Butler is a superstar. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player who dominates offensively and defensively. Now that Butler has upped his offensive production, the only player in the NBA who matches Butler’s all-around skill-set is the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, who finished second in MVP voting last year. Essentially, it’s risky to assume you’re going to get a player in return who even nears Butler’s quality.

Taking the Celtics options for example, the centerpiece would be the first round pick this year from the Nets, who will likely finish last in the league and earn Boston the first overall selection. From 2000 to 2015, eight out of the 16 first overall draft picks at one point surpassed Jimmy Butler’s season player rating from ESPN of 13th. Seven out of the other eight didn’t even come close (Kwame Brown and Anthony Bennett, for example). Basically, you have a 50 percent chance of getting someone who will fully make up for Butler’s absence. Add in the other players Boston will throw in, and you probably have a 55 percent chance of getting an adequate return for Butler.

But why take that chance, when, quite frankly, you have a 100 percent chance of attaining a player of Butler’s quality, in Butler himself? Sure, my estimation of a 55 percent chance makes it sound like the odds are in your favor, but are they really? Like I pointed out with the 7 under-performing picks, you have a near 50 percent chance of drafting someone who deserves to be taken in the fourth round, someone who’ll barely benefit your team. So the risk here is just not worth the reward. Some of you out there may clamor for the slightly beneficial number one draft odds, and that’s a fair point, but that’s gross negligence of the risk involved. Keeping Butler is much less risky.

Additionally, there’s only three players around his caliber that have been traded in the last ten years (Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and most recently, DeMarcus Cousins), and it hasn’t worked out too well for those organizations. The Nuggets certainly haven’t done much since they traded Anthony. Similarly, the Pelicans are only now scratching the surface of success after trading away CP3, but they’re doing it by acquiring Cousins, someone around Butler’s talent level. So, based on recent history, it doesn’t pay off to trade away your superstar in the NBA.

Finally, if you’re Gar Forman and John Paxson, you have time to build a competitive team around Butler. Dwyane Wade has another decent year left in him. You have younger players in Denzel Valentine, Doug McDermott, and Bobby Portis who might just need time to blossom, like Butler did. On your team’s current pace, you could get a top-15 draft pick, which is encouraging with the strength of this year’s draft class. In addition, there are several talented free agents on the market this offseason. Those with player options include Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin. You might just need to strengthen your bench. No matter what, Butler is an incredible piece to build off of, so you might as well try, given your other option is severely risky.

Presumably, this trade won’t happen. Logically, there’s no way GarPax should make it happen. Butler is a superstar. Due to the makeup of the sport, NBA teams need a superstar to win a championship. Recently, look to LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, and Paul Pierce to prove this. The Bulls player with the best shot to make that list is Jimmy Butler.

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