Jimmy Butler has defied the odds at every level of basketball and the Bulls really thought the man was someone they couldn't build around.
Tuesday evening the Miami Heat put the Milwaukee Bucks to bed, lead by Jimmy Butler's 17 point, 10 rebound and six assist performance.
Butler has been on a mission since entering the NBA bubble in Orlando. He didn't invite family to the bubble for a reason.
“This is a business trip for me. I’m not messing around. Everyone wants to have their family, without a doubt. But we’ve been doing this for this long, what’s another couple of months? It is an individual decision and I respect that decision that my teammates make but I’m here for business.”
That quote shows the kind of mentality Butler has played and lived with his entire life. Fatherless, his mom kicked him out of his childhood home at age 13, he took the junior college route because he received no Division One offers, and he was the last pick of the first round of the NBA Draft. The list goes on and on.
I know the Bulls are trending up with a new and improved front office currently trying to find the next head coach fo their historic franchise, but watching Butler lead this Heat team to the Eastern Conference Finals is another bullet point on the list of incompetence from Gar Forman and John Paxson over the long and exhausting course of their tenure in Chicago.
Despite some of his off the court antics, which I will discuss, the guy simply will do anything to win. The Bulls really thought he wasn't someone the franchise could build around.
Butler's Rise to Stardom
After a break out 2014-2015 season, averaging 20 points per game, making his first All-Star team, and leading the league in minutes per game, the Bulls and Butler came to an agreement on a five-year contract extension worth $95 million.
Butler helped carry the Bulls in almost every aspect of offense and defense when Derrick Rose was out due to an assortment of injuries.
Most of the 2015-2016 season was surrounded by questions of Rose and Butler being able to co-exist together. Unfortunately, because of injuries, the two never really got the chance to prove they could. Butler played in 67 games in '15-16 and Rose played in 66 games. Rose missed almost all of the season prior due to his torn meniscus.
After trading Rose to the Knicks in 2016, the Bulls essentially made Butler their star moving forward.
At the press conference welcoming Denzel Valentine after the 2016 NBA Draft, Forman stated the famous words.
"The last decade, we've got the best record in the Eastern Conference. We've put together a group that we thought was highly competitive and probably had a chance to get to a championship level. The injuries obviously derailed us quite a bit, especially the last few years. And then last year there were just so many of them. But we've got to put this back together now, going younger, more athletic and building it back up moving into the future."
Not even a month later, the Bulls signed then 12-time All-Star Dwayne Wade, who was entering his 14th season and soon turning 35 years of age, and Rajon Rondo, also a former All-Star entering his age 30 season.
The Bulls did the exact opposite of what they claimed they were planning to do. They made the playoffs the next season as an eight seed. They lost in the first round, in six games, to the Boston Celtics.
The locker room had it's moments too, with Wade and Butler calling out teammates for not playing hard in quotes to the Chicago media after a loss in January 2017.
"We don't play hard enough. This is your job. I want to play with guys who care."
Rondo responded on Instagram. All in all it was an embarrassing mess for Bulls fans at the time.
The trade came on draft night the following offseason. So, one year after the Bulls traded Derrick Rose, the Bulls moved Jimmy Butler. They gave him one year to prove he could be a player they can build around.
After the season, the Bulls entered the NBA Draft with the No. 16 overall pick. Many wondered if the Bulls would trade Butler because of the rumors that the Cleveland Cavaliers being interested in him and Paul George. The Minnesota Timberwolves entered the chat inquiring about Butler as well.
As we all know, the trade was made on draft night with the T-Wolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 9 overall pick that ended up being Lauri Markkanen. Also, for some reason no one can defend, the Bulls included their No. 16 draft pick in the trade.
Butler was reportedly on vacation in Paris at the time of the trade and did not expect it. Butler told LeBron James he wanted to stay in Chicago rather than go play for a championship, but the Bulls still traded him anyway.
Looking Back on the Trade
When it comes to the trade with Minnesota, the argument can certainly be made that the Bulls in fact won that trade, if you're comparing both teams. LaVine has developed into one of the top scorers in the NBA. Markkanen, despite his regression since his sophomore season, still has upside with many blaming Jim Boylen's coaching to why he has not performed well.
Butler played 69 games total with the Wolves before they traded him to Philadelphia after he asked for the trade in the fall of 2019 because he didn't get along with Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns and thought the culture in Minnesota would not result in winning. Never forget the famous practice where he single handily dominated with players from the bench against the starters and beat them.
The Bulls have players many still think make them a playoff caliber team, but Butler is in the Eastern Conference Finals. He's in the conference finals with a team that doesn't include a recent top-10 lottery pick.
As I said, the Bulls are trending up with a revamped front office and a new coach coming, but I wonder if this rebuild could have been different if Butler wasn't traded by the Bulls.
It goes without saying, Jimmy Butler is that Michael Jordan, 'and I took it personally' gif. He's used the negative narratives with former teams and channeled it in Miami where he's thrived and now leads a team four wins away from the NBA Finals. He won the trade.
That said, it sucks not seeing the Bulls in the playoffs or even in contention to make the playoffs. This franchise is too historic to not be in the playoff conversation yearly. Let's hope next season is the start of positive beginnings for a once proud franchise.