In the 2017 NBA off-season, Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls engaged in a blockbuster trade, where Chicago Bulls gave off their superstar Jimmy Butler in exchange for the 7th overall pick of that year’s draft, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. While at hindsight, it appears that Minnesota got the best bargain on their end, at the end of the day, Chicago may have won this deal.
Timberwolves acquired Jimmy Butler in the hopes of forming a Big 3 with Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns, hoping to create serious havoc in a heated, competitive Western Conference. With expectations to potentially reach the Western Conference Finals, the Jimmy Butler Timberwolves barely scraped by to reach to the playoffs, and only stole one victory away from the first seed Houston Rockets. With expectations falling completely flat for this Timberwolves squad that is prospected to reach greatness, the offseason revealed surprising new twists about the internal management of the team.
Over the offseason, one of the major headline news followed the wary relationship with Butler and the entire Timberwolves organization. Even with another all-star on the roster in Karl-Anthony-Towns, Jimmy Butler still had reasons to complain about the team’s lack of competitive spirit and motivation to win clutch games. After averaging 21 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds last season, Butler challenged the starting units to a game of 5-on-5 pickup basketball, playing with the third string units during practice and won, hoping to make a statement to the rest of the team about the lack of effort. In addition, a reunion with his former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau did not help in the matter at all, who overused Jimmy Butler more than any of the other players on the roster, smaller, more agile and athletic guys than Butler. And to tap it all off, Butler refused to participate in some of the games the next season and even trolled the team occasionally when addressing the press. Deciding to finally close the matter once and for all, the Timberwolves shipped Butler off to the 76ers in exchange for two complementary role players in Dario Saric and Robert Covington.
Bulls may have kicked the ground running and turning the tables in solidifying a solid core in this trade around Jimmy Butler. While Bulls focused solely on rebuilding efforts when they shipped off their core all-star in Jimmy Butler, they expected the rebuilding process to take a very long time. However, the way that these newcomers and additions from the trade have been playing may have suggested otherwise. In the first season with the Bulls, Kris Dunn has a breakout season, providing to the Bulls squad that he is here to stay and that he is a strong candidate to be the franchise’s future starting point guard, averaging 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in his 52 games of action. But, however, the biggest surprise of the season could have arguably been the Chicago’s 7th overall pick from the 2017 draft, Lauri Markkanen, who proved to make a strong case of why he is the biggest steal of the draft. Markkanen averages 15 points and 8 rebounds, and not only puts his ballot for the Rookie of the Year, but also solidified his place as the franchise’s main star.
But the Bulls may have acquired a superstar at a really nice bargain. Another big headline from this season is the emergence of Zach LaVine, who is turning out to be a top premier scorer and shooting guard in the league, averaging 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. LaVine is showing up to every game with a different spark with highlighted dunks and young athletic speed and agility, after missing his first season with the Bulls with an torn ACL injury. Kris Dunn only played one game in this season, recovering from a sore left knee, while Lauri Markkanen hasn’t played at all from a right elbow injury.
It looks like the Bulls have assembled a scary dark Big Three in the making, all within the transaction a single trade. The Timberwolves looks like they have lost big-time, not only losing a current all-star of Jimmy Butler, but also losing what could have been a scary starting lineup in years to come if they were patient with the LaVine injury. It is scary to imagine what the Bulls would look like if all three of the players acquired from a single trade played together. Undoubtedly, the Bulls have made a very risky move, shipping off their main all-star, but in return, may have gotten the biggest gains in their roster.