The NBA Draft is days away and a wild, potentially franchise-changing week could be ahead for the Chicago Bulls.
Rumors will swirl.
Names—big names—will be thrown around and there could either be an explosion of activity where star players will change addresses, creating a potential shift in conference hierarchies.
Or, nothing will happen and the status quo will remain so.
The Boston Celtics have observers of the Bulls on high alert, perhaps for natural reasons due to their affection for Jimmy Butler. Trading the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia for the No. 3 selection caused more than a few ripples leaguewide, as the Celtics acquired more future assets in the form of draft picks.
In next year’s draft, they have their own pick, Brooklyn’s first-round pick and the Lakers’ first-round pick, if it falls between No. 2-5, according to The Vertical. For the Celitcs, they’re passing up on Washington’s Markelle Fultz to maybe take Kansas’ Josh Jackson, a player many believe is the best prospect in the draft.
But trading away for the chance to draft Fultz is a risk Celtics GM Danny Ainge is willing to take—and it’s calculated risks that’s gotten him to this point, with assets on top of assets along with cap space and a roster that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals last month.
Many have drawn a straight line from the Celtics’ activity to the Bulls, as they have coveted Butler since Butler has ascended to stardom. In theory the Celtics have assets the Bulls would want to jumpstart a rebuild—multiple draft picks and existing talent they could ask for.
The more assets the Celtics have, the more assets the Bulls would ask for in a potential deal. But many around the Bulls don’t believe Ainge will even come calling before draft night, sources tell CSNChicago.com. The Celtics have enough to put a competitive team on the floor as is without having to add a player of Butler’s caliber. They have their eyes on Jazz free agent swingman Gordon Hayward and their trade of the first pick cleared enough cap savings to offer Hayward a max contract this July, as they’ll likely compete with the Jazz and Miami Heat as top suitors.
Butler made an All-NBA team this season, while Hayward did not, but the difference between the two may not be so vast for the Celtics to mortgage their future to acquire Butler over Hayward, if it comes to that.
And Ainge has worked hard to stockpile these assets; would he cash them in for a star in Butler or Pacers swingman Paul George as opposed to waiting on a megastar to hit the market?
It’s easy to fantasize but it’s clear Ainge is taking the long play here, wanting to be in prime position to take over the East when LeBron James declines, retires or departs to Los Angeles, as has been rumored.
Make no mistake, the Bulls front office has long been transparent about their so-called commitment to Butler and are certainly testing their star’s patience and sanity with the recent strategy of trying to develop some of their younger players as opposed to going after proven players.
And the possibility of selecting in the top five of the draft for the next couple years would be intriguing to a front office that’s stated the difficulty in selecting in the middle of the first round and finding productive players.
A trade of Butler will likely make things murkier for Dwyane Wade’s future, as he has until June 27 to decide whether he’ll take a $24 million payday or hit free agency and a player of his stature probably wouldn’t want to be around for a scaled-down rebuild with no anchor.
But who knows if the Bulls have an actual desire to trade Butler, as players of his caliber are hard to come by and consistently drafting high doesn’t guarantee anything in the way of the future—anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the NBA knows that.
So the Bulls must be very careful as to how they proceed for the rest of the week, if they’re at all bothered by the noise. If nothing else, they know how Ainge operates and he’s loving every second of this predraft madness.
Whether the Bulls stay calm or idle, it can appear to look the same way but they know there’s a possibility the phone may ring in the next four days.
But just because it rings, it doesn’t mean the Bulls have to kowtow or that they will; the status quo may not be sexy but it may be prudent.