Report: Rival executives believe Bulls and Celtics will renew Jimmy Butler trade talks

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The Celtics reportedly tried to trade for the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler before last year’s trade deadline and again around the draft.

Considering the chaos in Chicago and Boston’s treasure trove of assets, why wouldn’t the Celtics try again?

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

There are rival executives who believe the Bulls and Celtics will rekindle trade talks centered on Jimmy Butler before the Feb. 23 deadline. The teams held serious talks in June, and the Celtics own the same assets — Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, the Nets’ first-round picks in 2017 and 2018 — the teams discussed then.

Do these rival executives have inside information? Or are they just supposing? It doesn’t take much to figure these trade talks could resume.

A report earlier this month suggested Chicago wouldn’t trade Butler. But that was before Butler publicly admonished his teammates’ effort, drew a rebuke and apparent fine from Bulls general manager Gar Forman and then said he didn’t regret his comments.

Still, it’s hard to see Chicago parting with Butler.

Butler has become one of the NBA’s very best players, a true two-way star. He’s just 27 and locked up for two more years. It’s extremely difficult to acquire players so valuable. There should be no rush to move him, and few teams could offer commensurate return.

Boston could be one, though. Armed with those Brooklyn first-rounders, the Celtics could assemble a package that intrigues Chicago.

But the new veteran-designated-player rule offers an additional hurdle.

Because the Bulls drafted Butler and kept him through his rookie-scale contract, only they can exercise designated-player privileges on Butler. Those wouldn’t transfer in a trade to Boston.

Butler is on track to become a free agent in 2019. If he makes an All-NBA team next season, he can sign a designated-player extension during the 2018 offseason. If he makes an All-NBA team in 2018-19 or in both this season and next, he can re-sign as a designated player in 2019.

A max designated-player deal projects to pay Butler about $221 million over five years (about $44 million annually). That’s far more than another team projects to be able to offer — about  $141 million over four years (about $35 million annually).

If Butler gets traded to the Celtics, his projected max for re-signing projects to be about $190 million over five years (about $38 million annually). That’s still more than other teams could offer, but Boston wouldn’t have nearly the same incumbent advantage Chicago would if Butler qualifies as a designated player.

The Celtics would have to factor the chance Butler leaves as an unrestricted free agent in 2019 into any trade offer. Likewise, the Bulls would have to consider the odds Butler leaves them via free agency if they don’t trade him.

But the likelihood of Butler leaving Boston is higher than the likelihood of him leaving Chicago due to the financial realities of the designated-player rule. So, both teams are operating from vastly different points on this aspect. That’s a large chasm to overcome.

Simply, the designated-player rule makes Butler more valuable to the Bulls than any other team. The Celtics would have to hold Butler in much higher regard than Chicago does in other facets for a trade to be plausible.