With Lauri Markkanen expected to leave in free agency, all remnants of the Chicago Bulls trading Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves will be gone.
Provided that is, you don’t count Zach LaVine, given he entered restricted free agency and was signed back to the Windy City on a new deal in the interim.
In the final send-off of the Butler era, Bulls fans should rest easy knowing that with it, also goes the rebuild.
Despite being 26-39 and outside of the playoff picture, Chicago has two All-Stars in-house in LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
Any season you can say that is one your team has the potential to be in the mix.
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Bulls Traded Butler for Markkanen, Not LaVine
On the latest episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, K.C. Johnson and Rob Schaefer discussed a number of topics, closing with thoughts on what are potentially Lauri Markkanen’s last games with the Bulls.
Which naturally took them back to the Jimmy Butler trade. Johnson reminded listeners that it was Markkanen, not Zach LaVine, who was the centerpiece of that deal for Chicago:
Quite frankly he was the centerpiece of the trade. I mean, Zach LaVine, there were obviously organizational aspirations for him as well, but Lauri was the crown jewel. Zach was an important part, I’m not diminishing how the past managerial regime viewed Zach because they held firm on Zach.
It’s interesting to look back and think that what is now an All-Star guard and premier scorer in the NBA was undervalued in a deal that featured Markkanen, who’s been relegated to the bench in year four.
That has more to do with the state of the Bulls than the 23-year old’s game, but regardless, it just goes to show how quickly things change and how differently these deals can look just four years later.
But Markkanen, or the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft rather, wasn’t initially featured in trade talks.
Wiggins to Chicago?
Johnson mentions that former first overall pick Andrew Wiggins was once a part of a discussed package for Butler:
At one point Wiggins was bandied about in those talks, or what have you.
Given the context of the conversation, it seems that Minnesota may have preferred to deal Wiggins over their first-round pick at the time. He was coming off of arguably his best season as a pro.
This is interesting in that it has to alter how fans may or may not feel about that deal looking back now.
Because the discourse surrounding Wiggins today is largely negative, even two years into his tenure with the Golden State Warriors, one of the NBA’s premier developmental organizations.
As much as some portion of the Chicago Bulls’ fandom may have not enjoyed Lauri Markkanen’s tenure, this would have proved a much worse situation for the team.
Especially if they granted him the five-year, max extension he signed prior to the following season. It very quickly grew infamous as one of the worst contracts around the NBA. Close call.