This piece was updated with additional information after publication.
Minnesota reportedly sends Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the rights to Lauri Markkanen at no. 7 to Chicago for Jimmy Butler and the rights to Justin Patton at no. 16. Not a typo! After an entire season of half-baked rumors between the two front offices, the Wolves finally got Thibs’s guy.
Don’t overthink this one. In one of the franchise’s biggest acquisitions in its history, Minnesota now has Jimmy Butler (and the 16th pick, which is the icing on top of an already lopsided deal). Their draft plans never involved molding more raw rookie talent. Even with this stacked lottery, a no. 7 helps them less right now than using the asset to acquire an established talent, especially if that talent is Butler. Plus, Kris Dunn’s poor rookie showing, after being drafted fifth overall last year, likely makes head coach Tom Thibodeau less interested in taking a chance on an uncertain player.
This Wolves’ roster already has young star potential with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but it was missing a veteran presence. Getting someone to fill that role should’ve always been the goal, and as Ricky Rubio’s and LaVine’s names popped up as trade pieces, the question was how high could the return be. The answer turned out to be Butler. That’s transcendent. That’s instant elevation out of the depths of the Western Conference.
This is the best-case scenario for a team so often caught on the losing end of, well, the past 12 seasons.
The terms that the Bulls accepted confirm it: Chicago’s rebuild is on. It exchanged its best talent for Markkanen, an unproven sophomore point guard in Dunn, and an athletic off-guard in LaVine who, even with his legitimate, robust potential, is coming off an ACL injury.
Drafting Markkanen, in the words of my colleague Danny Chau, means that the Bulls have finally gotten the memo: Being an NBA team in 2017 means you need shooting. That’s exactly what they got in Markkanen: a spot-up shooter who, standing 7 feet tall, is one of the most lethal perimeter scorers in this draft class. In our Ringer Draft Guide, Markkanen’s "best-case scenario" comparison is Dirk Nowitzki. Chicago is banking that that will be true.
Meanwhile, Thibodeau just pulled the most impressive trade on the most crucial day against his former GM, who dismissed him only two years ago. Who says there’s no such thing as closure?
He’s not done making moves, though. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported that the Wolves were still trying to deal their playmaker and hoping to find a new point guard in free agency — perhaps a pure shooter to complement the style of Butler and Wiggins. It’s possible he wasn’t packaged in the Chicago deal because the Bulls didn’t want to take on his salary.
The Wolves finally made a deal (a good one, at that), but finding a new home for Rubio in the same night might be too much, even for Thibs.