Before you start throwing trade proposals out there, let me stop you. Before you start talking about how a Jimmy Butler trade benefits both the Bulls and Celtics, stop yourself. To prevent anyone from wasting precious time, shut up. Shut up right now.
I’ve got news for you, folks. In case you’re completely clueless and haven’t figured it out yet, the Jimmy Butler trade ship has sailed. I’m not sure where it’s going, exactly. I don’t know because Gar Forman and John Paxson don’t know either. But it’s certainly not headed for Boston. It’s probably not headed to Los Angeles or Philadelphia or Phoenix either. Come to think of it, the “ship has sailed” metaphor is a poor choice in this scenario. The Jimmy Butler ship is actually staying right here in one of Chicago’s lakeside harbors. Right next to Dwyane Wade’s yacht and Rajon Rondo’s catamaran. (Doesn’t Rondo seem like he’d be a catamaran guy? A more complex sea-craft for a more complex individual.)
Anyway, back to the point at hand. On Tuesday night, the Celtics won the jackpot of the 2017 NBA draft lottery. As Danny Ainge’s crew prepares for battle against LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ve added the #1 overall pick in next month’s draft to their promising young core. Does any NBA team’s future look brighter than this bunch in Boston? Paul Pierce says no.
And look what I leave behind for the Celts on my way out #1 pick😂👌🏾🙏🔥
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) May 17, 2017
Somehow They Manage
Imagine how madly jealous Gar and Paxson must be of Pierce’s old bosses in Boston. It was just five years ago that Pierce – along with Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen – was giving the aging Celtics one last deep playoff run. They lost to Miami in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, and were ousted in the first round the following season. That was the final season for that Celtics superteam. It took Ainge just four years to find an excellent young coach, provide Brad Stevens with a talented young core and get back to the conference finals. Oh, and he stockpiled extra lottery picks while doing so. Talk about retooling! ‘Sup, GarPax?
When you compare all of that positive change and managerial success to what GarPax have “accomplished” since 2012, it’s laughably depressing. And if you’re one of those misguided Bulls fans thinking the front office can finally steer their ship in a clear direction by trading Butler to Boston for that #1 overall pick, wake up. Because you’re dreaming.
New Year, Same Deal
Let’s think back to the Butler-Celtics trade rumors and reports from last year. Both at the 2016 trade deadline and leading up to the draft last summer, reports from Chicago and Boston said Butler talks never got very far. Why? Because Ainge wasn’t willing to include Brooklyn’s 2017 1st round pick without a protection clause attached to it. Following that logic, why on earth would he be willing to include it in a package for Butler now that he knows it’s the #1 pick?
Whatever the Celtics offered a year ago, it wasn’t good enough for Forman and Paxson to deal their best player and commit to a full-scale rebuild. We got a refresher course on this front office’s fear of rebuilding at their end-of-season press conference. They didn’t say Jimmy is untouchable, and they will listen to all offers. But what they did say is that they know just how valuable Butler is, and that they won’t trade him just to trade him. Unless GarPax are 110% certain that Boston is sending them a package of picks and players of equal or greater value to their star, the trade won’t happen.
If the trade offers at this year’s deadline were nowhere “remotely close” – as Paxson said – to being enough to pry Jimmy away, in what world do those offers from Boston get richer this summer? The Brooklyn pick is off the table. The Celtics have another likely lottery pick from Brooklyn in 2018, but Markelle Fultz isn’t in the 2018 draft. He’s in this one. There’s also no guarantees about how high the 2018 pick will be if you’re talking about a Butler trade that happens before this draft next month. Do the Bulls value that 2018 Brooklyn pick as highly as the #1 overall in 2017? Of course not.
Are the Bulls still interested in some of Boston’s role players? Names like Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley were thrown around as potential trade pieces last year. A) The two sides reportedly couldn’t agree on which players the Bulls would get in return for Butler. B) Do the Celtics value those role players more than they did a year ago, as they’ve contributed to this season’s deep playoff run? C) Do the Bulls still want those same pieces, or do they want different ones? Jae Crowder looks a lot less valuable than he did a year ago. He’s a decent player, but he appears to have hit his ceiling this season while Butler is still getting better.
Speaking of getting better, some might argue that Butler’s marked improvement this season – his third straight All Star appearance and first as a starter – would be enough to entice Boston to increase their offer from a year ago. Not so fast. Yes, Butler improved. But he’s also a year older and his team-friendly “max” contract (signed before the huge cap spike) has two years remaining, not three. To me, those two factors cancel out Butler’s improvement if you’re talking about his value now compared to a year ago.
Are we starting to see the bigger picture yet? The Bulls won’t trade Jimmy without getting a massive haul in return. The Celtics and Ainge appear dead set on holding that #1 overall pick, and their offer from last year is unlikely to be sweetened. We’ve reached the dead end. For many of the same reasons trade talks stalled last year, they will again. That is, if the talks even start at all. The Celtics might decide they’ve already progressed this much without Butler, so who needs him? Stay the course, add two more lottery pick players and eventually have a talented young roster that’s good enough to dethrone an aging LeBron sometime in the next few seasons.
I didn’t even need to mention the Celtics’ potential interest in Paul George or impending free agent Gordon Hayward. Sure, those are factors that make a Butler-Celtics trade less likely, but the minuscule likelihood is the same if you remove those factors. This is about the Bulls and Celtics not being compatible trade partners.
Are we all on the same page now? Good. Then let’s talk about something else for the next month. Because if I hear one more Butler-Celtics trade proposal I’m going to get in my ship and sail away from you fools.
Wait. Nevermind. I don’t have a ship. Darn it.
…Maybe Rondo will let me hide out in his catamaran for a while instead. Whatever must be done to get some peace and quiet away from this nonsense.