Bulls trade Butler to Timberwolves

Published 8:08 am Friday, June 23, 2017

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls have decided to rebuild without Jimmy Butler rather than reload with him.

The Bulls launched a roster overhaul Thursday night by pulling off a blockbuster trade, dealing the three-time All-Star and the rights to No. 16 pick Justin Patton of Creighton to the Timberwolves. In exchange, the Bulls got No. 7 overall pick Lauri Markkanen of Arizona along with Minnesota’s Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.

A 7-footer from Finland, Markkanen gives the Bulls a shooter they lacked last season. He averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 42.3 from 3-point range in his lone season at Arizona. And he has little doubt his shot will translate to the NBA.

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“I’ve been working on my shot, shooting NBA 3s,” Markkanen said. “There’s no difference for me. I can make that shot even better than college 3s.”

The Bulls made the playoffs on a tiebreaker with 41 wins after missing out the previous year. But they addressed their biggest question with one huge move on Thursday.

Chicago could have tried to build with Butler. Instead, the Bulls gambled by trading away one of the league’s best two-way players and their most successful draft pick in recent memory.

Kicked out of his house in Tomball, Texas, by his mother when he was 13 and with his father out of his life, Butler ultimately rose to stardom in Chicago after being selected No. 30 overall in 2011.

But he clashed with former MVP Derrick Rose. He criticized Fred Hoiberg during the coach’s first season. And in January, Butler and Dwyane Wade questioned the team’s effort. That drew a pointed response from Rajon Rondo and fines for all three veterans.

Chicago and Minnesota discussed a deal last year on draft night that involved Butler, LaVine and Dunn. This time, they made it happen.

Butler, who turns 28 in September, was a third-team, All-NBA pick this year. One more all-league selection within the next two seasons would have qualified him for a designated-player exception under the new collective bargaining agreement. That in turn would have put him in line for a contract worth more than $200 million starting in 2019-20 had the Bulls kept him.

While Butler reunites with former coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, Chicago gets a rising star coming off a torn ACL in LaVine as well as last year’s No. 5 overall pick in Dunn to go with Markkanen.

It’s a bold move for the Bulls as they try to climb in the Eastern Conference after getting knocked out of the playoffs by Boston in the first round. It’s also a sign that they’re trying to give Hoiberg a roster that fits his pace-and-space offense, something they did not do in his first two seasons.

Chicago ranked 23rd in scoring and 24th in 3-point accuracy last season.

“I’ve been playing a lot of different ways,” Markkanen said. “Whatever coach wants me to play, that’s how I’m going to play.”

The addition of Markkanen — a scoring force on the perimeter and in the post for Arizona — raises questions about the future of Nikola Mirotic in Chicago.