Bulls Urged to Reunite with 6-Time All-Star, Former Franchise Cornerstone

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

Getty Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls celebrates with Derrick Rose #1

The Chicago Bulls need “one gritty jerk on the team” says ESPN analyst, Max Kellerman. That was part of his determination on the April 14 edition of ESPN’s “Keyshawn, JWill, & Max” in assessing what the Bulls lack heading into their first postseason appearance since 2017.

It was a conversation that included asking whether or not the Bulls should try to trade for Anthony Davis, something Heavy’s Brian Mazique examined further.

They also brought up another familiar name, Rudy Gobert.

After comparing the Bulls to the Phoenix Suns in how quickly things seemed to come together for the Bulls, Kellerman made a brutally honest statement on the character of this team in general which co-hosts Keyshawn Johnson and Jay Williams agreed with.

Getting Gritty

“There’s something about this team, guys…Jay, that feels to me like a little…like they got too many nice guys on the team. They need a jerk, you know? They need that…that certain kind of temperament.”

This is very similar to comments made by 11-year NBA veteran and one-time Bulls guard, Greg Anthony who said the Bulls were not a “mentally tough team”. Kellerman went on to offer a solution in a familiar name, six-time NBA All-Star and former Bulls draft pick, Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat.

“If Jimmy Butler is really not long for Miami, you don’t think a package centered around, say, Vucevic…”

At that point, Kellerman asked Williams how Vucevic was on defense. Williams admitted the Bulls’ big man was “not good” on that end of the floor but disagreed with Kellerman at least on Jimmy Butler’s fit.

“Jimmy Butler would not be the answer, though, to Chicago…Chicago needs a rim protector.”

Williams then explained that Vucevic is often left on an island on every pick-and-roll action which will lead to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton having a field day.

At this point, Johnson jumped into the conversation to shoot down giving up Davis from the Lakers’ perspective. More than that, though, he backed up Kellerman at least in that Butler brings something else that Davis or Lonzo Ball – who Williams mentioned as a reason for not needing Butler – simply do not.

Bring Back Buckets

“Jimmy Butler brings that grit that they’re kind of missing. It’s not the guard play, it’s that…I don’t know what you want to call it…That tough mentality. That, you know, ‘don’t mess with me’ type mentality. In other words, he’s [Kellerman] saying the Chicago Bulls play nice right now.”

Kellerman then named names.

Zach LaVine’s a nice guy. DeMar DeRozan, a nice guy. Everywhere you look you got a nice guy…I need one gritty jerk on the team. Key, when I think of a team like that, I don’t think of AD’. AD’s not the guy I think, ‘oh, that’s the missing ingredient’.”

Johnson agreed with that point and went on to say they need that, “Draymond Green mentality” which is a comparison that probably needs to be made more.

Butler – who is averaging 21.0 points with 5.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists – has never been a great three-point shooter, connecting on 32.1% of his deep looks for his career. He did shoot better than 36.0% in three separate seasons, all with the Bulls, in 2013, 2015, and 2017.

He is shooting worse than Green (29.6% this season, 31.7% career) connecting on just 23.3% of his deep looks this season, though.

Still, Butler would provide just the kind of mindset that this team lacks if spacing concerns with DeRozan don’t scare you off. A deal wouldn’t have to include a third team either. The Bulls could send Vucevic along with promising rookie Patrick Williams and future draft picks.

However, Miami has no need for Vucevic given the presence of Bam Adebayo and their style of play. And the Bulls would then need a starting center. All of that is just the beginning of what makes this an unlikely scenario.

A Winding Road

Drafted with the 30th-overall pick out of Marquette in 2011, Butler spent the first six seasons of his career in a Bulls uniform making his first three All-Star games in his final three seasons in Chicago.

His last year came as the lead dog of the “Three Alphas” which consisted of him, Rajon Rondo, and Chicago-area native, Dwyane Wade.

He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in November of 2017 for several pieces including current stalwart Zach LaVine as well as now-Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen, and Kris Dunn who ended the season on the Portland Trail Blazers roster.

Since then, Butler infamously wore out his welcome in both Minnesota and Philadelphia with the 76ers, though, different accounts of who he upset do exist depending on who you ask.

That reputation for having a grating personality has followed him. It resurfaced yet again when Butler and Heat assistant coach Udonis Haslem got rather animated on the bench during the team’s blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors on March 23.

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In a sit-down with reporters courtesy of the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang, Haslem says it is a non-issue.

“Typical day in Miami,” he said on Wednesday. “That’s how we get stuff done around here. We believe in eye-to-eye communication. Jimmy’s my brother. I love Jimmy.”

Neither Haslem’s comments, nor those made by Butler in this video courtesy of Brendan Tobin of Tobin & Leroy make it sound like this is a situation either party intends to end anytime soon.

Add in the fact that the Heat traded for one of Butler’s best friends and the godfather to his daughter in Kyle Lowry just this past offseason and this intriguing idea quickly reverts back to a pipe dream. Or, better yet, a memory.

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