Rajon Rondo

After trading Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, where do the Bulls go from here?

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Jimmy Butler is now a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. In a draft day trade, the Timberwolves received Jimmy Butler and reunited him with his old coach from Chicago Tom Thibodeau. In exchange for the shooting guard, the Chicago Bulls received the No. 7 overall pick — Chicago took Arizona’s Lauri MarkkanenKris Dunn, and Zach LaVine.

The question now in Chicago is this: now what?

Butler, 27, was the superstar the Bulls needed post-Derrick Rose. Now, with Butler gone, the Bulls will need to rebuild in a year in which they have young assets mixed with older, more expensive players that don’t seem to match up. After a year in which Chicago just barely made the playoffs with the eight seed, they are going to need to readjust their entire roster. That could mean new landing places for Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Robin Lopez.

Forget on the on-floor performance for a moment, the real question for Chicago will be how to properly allocate their resources when it comes to salary in the coming season. Wade, 35, will reportedly opt into the final year of his contract to play for his hometown team despite Butler moving to Minnesota. Chicago will earn the right to pay Wade $23.8 million for this upcoming season. Rondo is in much the same boat, with $13.4 million left in the final year of his contract.

From a wins perspective, both players would no doubt be highly crucial to any wins this new Bulls team would garner in the coming season. But both players have a staggering amount of salary left, and would no doubt take up valuable playing time for the young, newly acquired players that the Bulls should want to develop.

The most obvious choice for both Rondo and Wade would be waivers or buyouts. Rondo’s contract only has $3 million left on it if he is bought out before June 30. Despite a solid playoff performance, Rondo does not have a $13 million value to the Bulls in terms of playing time, and they don’t have a need for whatever erratic play he may bring to the table.

While the Butler trade created a $15.3 million exception for the Bulls, Wade’s contract stands as an albatross that is in the way of both free agency this season and extensions for young players in the coming season. Chicago is facing restricted free agency for Nikola Mirotic come July, and will need to figure out what to do with younger players like Michael Carter-Williams and Cristiano Felicio.

After decisions are made this summer for those players, the Bulls will need to figure out how to sign LaVine to an extension. Given the market for players of his caliber and position, LaVine will almost certainly command a number comparable to what Wade’s salary currently occupies on the Chicago cap space.

This is all before we even get to Lopez, who has $26 million left on his contract for the next two seasons. While he is still a productive player, at age 29 it’s unclear at how much Lopez factors into Chicago’s future plans. Given his contract situation it might be better to try to move him as a means to acquire new assets that are closer in age to the Bulls’ new core.

If your head is not spinning by now, you’re one of the lucky ones. It just gets worse from here.

It seems highly probable that Rondo will be waived or bought out in order to minimize the impact he has on the cap this season. He doesn’t glean much on the trade market given his current full contract value, and his an uneasy play (despite his playoff prowess) is something that that has driven potential trade suitors away.

What to do with Wade is an entirely different conversation. If Chicago decided to buy him out this summer it would be a clear choice of direction in terms of both the roster makeup and the playing time allotted to the new young backcourt at the United Center. The Bulls would immediately become ultra flexible, and able to match a restricted offer for Mirotic without fearing any kind of retribution down the line for when they try to sign other players in free agency or offer LaVine an extension.

Then again, they could wait to buy him out until later in the season, say, around the All-Star Game, all the while taking in ticket sales for Chicago fans to see their hometown star. There is no doubt that Wade would be a good influence on younger players in the locker room, despite the high price tag. If they want to buy him out later in the season, he could join another team in time for a playoff run. That might convince Wade to take a larger amount off of his contract come buyout time.

Lost in the sauce of all this contract talk is just what the Bulls are doing with their future. LaVine looked excellent before his ACL injury in 2016-17, and Dunn had promise despite a disappointing first season in Minnesota. By all accounts, the Bulls gave up too much in their trade with the Timberwolves, with most lamenting their decision to send the No. 16 pick to Minnesota despite Chicago giving up the best player in the swap.

There’s also the matter of the Bulls trading Jordan Bell to the Golden State Warriors straight up for cash considerations. Bell was an excellent player at Oregon, and would have a fit right in with Chicago’s new young core. Given that there is an issue with the Chicago front line when it comes to Mirotic’s RFA contract and Felicio’s free agency, the idea that Bell would not have fit in with the young Bulls is sort of baffling.

Yes, Chicago selected Lauri Markkanen with the No. 7 overall pick, but the University of Arizona product is not projected to be enough of a influence to suggest Bell had to be moved. Bell is almost certainly getting sent to the G-League for the Warriors, but he could have played a role for a team in Chicago that needs theirs defined. If the Butler trade was symbolic of their new direction, perhaps the Bell-for-cash swap was most emblematic of how the Bulls do business.

At the end of the day, Chicago’s trade with Minnesota sending Butler back to Thibodeau feels hilariously lopsided, and pushes the full reset for the Bulls in the years since Rose, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson led the team. Unless either LaVine, Markkanen, or Dunn exceed Butler’s performance for Chicago, it’s unlikely that history will look kindly at this trade. When the Bulls brought in Wade and Rondo last season, it looked like the team that once challenged in the Eastern Conference had started their decline. Once Rondo and Wade are gone, we’re likely to see the bottom for Chicago.

Report: Bulls “actively shopping” Jimmy Butler for trade; Cavaliers, Celtics at front of line

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Retool around Jimmy Butler or trade him and rebuild completely?

That was the question hanging over the Bulls for at least a year now, and it has been hard to read what Bulls management was thinking, their actions were inconsistent. Last year they were going to go young, then went out and signed Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo.

Now it looks like trading him may be the call. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

The Bulls routinely say they’ll take phone calls from teams about Butler’s availability around this time and at the trade deadline but this time around, multiple sources tell CSNChicago.com the Bulls are doing more than listening: they’re shopping Butler to many teams….

The Boston Celtics have always been fond of Butler and have the assets the Bulls, in theory, would be attracted to in terms of multiple draft picks and affordable contracts on the current roster. The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to be on the Bulls’ doorstep before abruptly ending their partnership with GM David Griffin Monday evening.

On the surface they would appear to be the favorites as the Phoenix Suns have been “doing due diligence,” according to league sources. And the Denver Nuggets were on the periphery at the trade deadline, acquiring about Butler.

The most interesting thing is that the Bulls seem serious this time. Maybe. Ownership there doesn’t like the idea of a rebuild, they want to make the playoffs every year and sell out (contending is nice but not required). This would be a rebuild and the Bulls are out of the playoffs for a few years. Butler has said he wants to stay, and he likely would qualify for a designated player super max contract in 2019 when he is a free agent if they want to keep him.

The Celtics would be interesting, they have the pieces to pull this off, but in the past they haven’t put all that on the table for Butler. If they are willing to trade the No. 3 plus two of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder, then they would only need to make a few smaller moves to still have the money to still chase Gordon Hayward in free agency with a max offer, stockpiling their team. If they trade all three players they would have space, but the Bulls likely want picks in this deal. Plural.

Butler wants to go to the Cavaliers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. David Griffin reportedly left the Cavaliers proposals they could pitch for Butler (and Paul George), but could owner Dan Gilbert and defacto GM Koby Altman really pull that off? I’m not convinced, mostly because the Cavaliers don’t have a pick to trade until 2021, so it would take a third team and delicate negotiations.

The Nuggets have a lot of good assets, and you slide Butler next to Jamal Murray, getting passes from Nikola Jokic, and you have something there. The Suns have assets as well.

The only question is if the Bulls are really serious this time.

Report: Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg a candidate to coach Ohio State

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The Bulls said they wouldn’t fire Fred Hoiberg.

But maybe he’ll take matters into his own hands.

Ohio State parted ways with Thad Matta, creating an appealing vacancy for an accomplished college coach like Hoiberg, who previously coached Iowa State. Apparently, the fit is a little more than circumstantial.

Gary Parrish of CBS:

There are multiple reports.

Columbus would be a soft landing for Hoiberg, who has looked in over his head in two seasons with the Bulls.

Hoiberg has seemingly failed to engender much confidence from his players, and Jimmy Butler has repeatedly publicly critiqued the coach. Whether his own players or opponents, Hoiberg has just stumbled into too many odd and unnecessary complications. Or his players bypass his leadership altogether, like when Butler and Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo publicly sparred over the team’s direction.

We still haven’t seen Hoiberg’s offense fully unleashed in the NBA – a product of Chicago’s uneven roster – and he might want to see this through. But after all the headaches, he might prefer to return to college, where he’d have greater control over his players

Hoiberg’s job security appears low. The chance he could be fired next season and the appeal of coaching the Buckeyes might push him into a preemptive move.

LeBron James ties Magic Johnson for most triple-doubles in NBA Finals history

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The Warriors are overwhelming, but not even they could completely shut down LeBron James‘ historic dominance.

LeBron grabbed his 10th rebound in the midst of a 13-2 Golden State run during the third quarter of Game 2, giving him his eighth triple-double in the NBA Finals. That ties Magic Johnson for the most all-time.

Nobody else has more than two.

The full leaderboard:

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Player Finals triple-doubles
Magic Johnson 8
LeBron James 8
Bob Cousy 2
Bill Russell 2
Wilt Chamberlain 2
Walt Frazier 2
Larry Bird 2
Jerry West 1
Elgin Baylor 1
Wes Unseld 1
Dave Cowens 1
James Worthy 1
Scottie Pippen 1
Charles Barkley 1
Jason Kidd 1
Tim Duncan 1
Rajon Rondo 1
Draymond Green 1

Celtics to start Gerald Green, bring Amir Johnson off bench in Game 2

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Inserting Gerald Green into the starting lineup worked well for Boston in the first round against Chicago, that is when the Celtics were down 0-2 and turned the series around. Well, it was that and Rajon Rondo getting injured. And the Celtics just becoming more focused defensively.

Whether it works against a far better Cleveland team is another question entirely, but Boston coach Brad Stevens is going to give it a shot, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

Green is more athletic than Amir Johnson and may be slightly better suited to guarding LeBron James, although with the way LeBron is playing it’s all relative.

Expect a better, more determined effort from Boston in Game 2.

Whether that is enough is another question.