On Thursday, the front office of the Chicago Bulls decided to deal All-NBA forward Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton (16th pick) to the Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markkanen (7th pick). Normally I would talk about an organization and the front office as a unified group, but fans and players of the Bulls have long despised the incompetence of the front office. For years, the roster has been just good enough to hover around a playoff spot but not bad enough to capitalize on a good draft pick.
What GarPax has often been criticized for is an inability to pick a lane. Of course they had to deliver on those demands in the most GarPax way possible, by trading one of the 10 best players in the world just weeks after he expressed desires to stay with the team. And this was after claiming for years that they would only trade Butler for a massive haul. So after finally giving us a direction, it’s time to complete the full rebuild and find a new front office that will make moves to support the future instead of putting it on hold.
This is just a prime example of the contradiction that is Bulls’ front office. The Boston Celtics clearly had the best assortment of assets of any potential suitor, but time and time again GarPax asked for more. Then they go and make a worse deal with a team that is coached by the same man that cursed their existence. And for what reason? To prove that they weren’t afraid to pull the trigger on their stud? Here is a live video of GarPax making business decisions:
I think it’s because the joint ego of GarPax wanted to make a splash deal to get into headlines and shove it in the face of the fans. But they sent the organization and the fan base into the water with bricks and chains attached to their ankles. I can just imagine them in an oversized office, playing Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares, speaking to Bulls fans like, “Ain’t this what you been waiting for?”. Then Paxson has the nerve to say he wants to build through the draft after getting no future picks in the deal and trading their second round pick for money.
All jokes aside, if this trade means that even Jerry Reinsdorf sees their sub-par decisions and parts ways with GarPax, then I am fine with it. Because the truth is that my issue with the trade was the timing and lack of future picks that came with the deal. The players received in the deal are going to be good if not great. But before I get into what the Bulls and their fans have to look forward to, I want to highlight the many GarPax decisions that I am still stunned have not created more outrage. Of course hindsight is 20/20 and you can’t predict the future of players, but some of these deals were flat out bad:
- In 2006, drafting LaMarcus Aldridge with the second pick and trading him to the Blazers for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa. Thomas was all bounce, no substance. Everyone knew that, but some thought his physical tools and defensive capabilities would prove to be beneficial. They didn’t. And Viktor Khryapa? Really? That’s the piece that made trading down worth it? This dude averaged a smooth 2.2 points on 38% shooting in his full year with the Bulls. While a bit of a mental midget, Aldridge is a perennial All-Star candidate.
- In 2012, Thibs wanted a kid named Draymond Green out of Michigan State, but GarPax thought, “Hey, how bout that Marquis Teague kid?”. I’m not a huge fan of Green’s antics, but that sure would be a nice level of toughness to have paired with Jimmy Butler and a peak Joakim Noah.
- How about 2014 when they traded Jusuf Nurkic (a consistent double-double guy) and Gary Harris (a rising two-way shooting guard) to move up and pick Doug McDermott. As a person, I’m a big fan of Doug but he’s already been traded for lack or production.
- In 2012, the Bulls traded sharpshooter and fan favorite Kyle Korver to Atlanta for a trade exception and cash considerations. He made an All-Star team there, but I hope GarPax bought some Lou Malnati’s with that nice little chunk of change.
- On that note, how about trading Thursday’s second rounder, Jordan Bell, for $3.5 million in cash to the Warriors. Not only was Bell one of the premier defenders in the draft, but he was going to be a cheap, productive role player. But again, money must be more important than the actual players.
- I haven’t even gotten into the Loul Deng trade that brought back a broken, soon to be cut Andrew Bynum and a bevy of wasted second round picks. Or the time they had the peak athletic J.R. Smith for about two hours. Or the overpayment of aging Carlos Boozer, Ben Wallace, and Rip Hamilton.
- I’d be one-sided to forget about the few good moves. Drafting Jimmy at 30 in 2011, picking Derrick Rose over Michael Beasley (which at the time was very debated), then dealing a shelled Rose last summer for healthy bodies. But there is much more bad than good
Now to the good stuff. I want to start off by saying that I love all three of the pieces that they Bulls acquired. LaVine, health dependent, is going to be a 20-point scorer in this league without a doubt. While rehabbing, he has already put on impressive upper body strength, which will only aide his ability to finish through contact and remain durable throughout the years.
He’s so much more than a dunk freak, and has grown up each year, peaking at 18.9 points a game in only his third season. As a fan base, it’s hard for us to ignore the impacts that a torn ACL has on an athleticism-dependent guard. But the main difference I see with his game is that he has become a lethal three-point shooter (39% last year), so he won’t need to be the same explosive athlete to be productive. His craftiness and technical skills are being worked on as we speak and he’s hungry to show that he can be the go-to guy in Chicago.
Kris Dunn was actually the player the Bulls wanted last year in the trade discussions, so it’s nice to see him finally come over. People are going to look at his stat line (3.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.4 apg) and question if he is a bust. He is 100% going to be a good NBA player. His jump shot is a real problem, like pretty much every Bulls point guard since Aaron Brooks, but the rest of his game is above average.
Defensively, he can be one of the 10-15 best defensive guards in the league. He’s 6-4, strong, quick, and has ridiculous hands. The steals numbers will speak for themselves, but when is the last time the Bulls had a point guard who could really defend? Maybe 2008 Kirk Hinrich? Dunn is also a gifted passer and ball-handler, capable of shaking defenders and making plays in the teeth of the defense. Like many young guards, he has to take care of the ball more, but having Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo could help accelerate that progress. In fact, Dunn is the versatile stat-sheet stuffer that Rondo was in Boston, just bigger and faster minus some passing plus some scoring.
Lauri Markkanen is the guy everyone wants to know about. It’s pronounced like Lowry Mark-Ca-Nen. No he’s not going to replace Jimmy Butler, so for the fans that thought the Bulls were going to find an heir to that throne, it wasn’t going to happen. But I absolutely love this pick, especially for a team that shot 34% from three last year. GarPax actually managed to construct one of the worst shooting rosters I have ever seen in this era of the NBA.
Markkanen is the best 7-foot shooter I have seen since Dirk Nowitzki. Let me repeat for the folks who thought I made a typo. LAURI MARKKANEN IS THE BEST 7-FOOT SHOOTER SINCE DIRK NOWITZKI. Yes that means a better shooter than recent picks like Kristaps Porzingis, Myles Turner, or Frank Kaminsky. Yes that means better than Channing Frye, who Jalen Rose incorrectly likened him to. He’s a better shooter than the Gasols, Boogie, you name it outside of Dirk. Markkanen’s release is fluid, repeatable, high and fairly quick. What’s most impressive is that he can run off screens like a wing player and still set his feet and hit contested shots. He was a 42% 3-point shooter at Arizona, but brings a lot more to the table offensively. He’s really good at attacking the basket off the bounce after or pump fake or after going coming off screens, something almost unheard of for someone of his size.
I know what people are thinking: big, tall, unathletic European. But what makes Markkanen so good is the effortless speed which he displays moving up the court. He’s no Porzingis athletically, but he’s a much better leaper than given credit for. People have said he doesn’t rebound enough, but the kid averaged 7.2 rebounds in the Pac-12 playing alongside Dusan Ristic, who is a bruising 7-footer. So don’t tell me he doesn’t attack the glass enough.
Now his defense isn’t great right now, as he doesn’t block a ton of shots. It’s not because he doesn’t have the leaping ability but more because his timing isn’t as good and often he waits for the defensive rebounds sort of like Kevin Love likes to do. However, his ability to move his feet might make him a useful P&R defender if he can learn to use his length and give NBA guards a step. He should only gain muscle on what seems to be a frame that can carry a solid 250, making defense a easier for him. Overall, I’m really looking forward to his progress and would recommend buying a Markkanen jersey while the prices are still low. No one man will replace Jimmy, but in LaVine, Dunn, and Markkanen, we got three players who could all average over 15 points a game with LaVine and Markannen capable of being 20-point scorers in time.
Jimmy deserved better than the front office was giving him. We as fans do as well, but we can’t jump on the Golden State, or Cleveland, or Philly bandwagon. We have to stick through it and understand that the sand timer has already been flipped over on the decision makers. I will applaud GarPax for finally choosing a direction, but that’s it. We have some pieces and will undoubtedly add some more in the next couple drafts and free agency with the absurd amount of available capital. I know it’s tough right now, but we (as in the fans and the team) will be alright. Especially once a new duo is making decisions.