How Timberwolves, Bulls are living after draft day trade that never happened

Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Kris Dunn (Providence) shows off the inside of his coat after being selected as the number five overall pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Kris Dunn (Providence) shows off the inside of his coat after being selected as the number five overall pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

During the 2016 NBA draft, rumors swirled of an impending trade between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Chicago Bulls centered around All-Star shooting guard, Jimmy Butler. How are both teams operating in the aftermath?

A Jimmy Butler trade made sense for both the Timberwolves and the Bulls as Chicago had traded away former MVP Derrick Rose just a couple of days prior to the draft and were thought to be in a rebuilding mode.

In addition, there were rumblings of a contentious relationship between Butler and current Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. With a recently hired Tom Thibodeau in place to take a talented but young Timberwolves to the next level, it seemed reasonable that he would want to bring in a player who is not only established in the league but also one in which he could trust.

However, as reports continued to surfacethings quickly fell apart. No one knows exactly why, as Minnesota was reportedly willing to give up the fifth-overall pick in return for the All-Star defensive stopper. But one has to assume that it likely revolved around the idea of Chicago not only wanting the #5 pick (to draft Kris Dunn, whom they fell in love with during the pre-draft process) but also because they required that either Andrew Wiggins or Zach LaVine be part of the deal as well.

In the wake of the Timberwolves comeback win in Chicago on Tuesday night, I figured now would be the perfect time to revisit how the results of one of the bigger off-season non-trades has affected both franchises.

Once the Bulls came to the realization that they would be keeping Jimmy Butler in Chicago, they immediately focused on making him the centerpiece of their franchise and surrounded him with players who could not only help them compete for a playoff spot in the East but also ensure his growth as the go-to guy and leader of the team.

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They brought in guys like Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, who are in the latter parts of their career but brought a championship pedigree with them. They not only allowed Butler to lead the team but encouraged it and that approach has paid dividends thus far this season. The Bulls currently sit in fourth place in the East with a record of 13-11 and Butler has been a large part of the success.

According to, Butler ranks 4th in the league in win-shares and has taken a leap on the offensive end, becoming the go-to guy down the stretch while averaging a career-best 25.6 points a game.

On the flip side, The Minnesota Timberwolves have under-performed all season and without the veteran leadership needed to maximize Thibodeau’s system, it’s no surprise why he was willing to give up a potentially special player and the future of their point guard position in Kris Dunn to bring in a guy like Butler. But once the Bulls inquired about Wiggins and/or LaVine, that, in my opinion had to be too much to bear, and for good reason.

Even without the wins to show for it so far this season, both Wolves players have taken a step in their development and have reinforced the excitement of Minnesota’s bright future. Wiggins, on an individual level, looks more comfortable finding his spots on the floor and continues his progression into becoming a more assertive player. His unlimited talent has yet to turn into meaningful impact in terms of wins, but like Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine, it’s hard to ignore his individual performance from night-to-night.

Speaking of Zach LaVine, perhaps overshadowed by his star-in-the-making counter parts in Wiggins and Towns, is quietly having a great individual season and has taken the biggest leap of anyone on the team in his development.

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The third-year combo guard struggled with figuring who he was as a player in his first two seasons, but this year not only does he look comfortable as the team’s starting two-guard, but has embraced his role and is thriving because of it. One can see the confidence brewing in him as the season goes on, and it’s getting to the point where I believe we can start looking at this young trio as their Big Three of the future rather than the “Big Two and Zach LaVine”.

So how did the non-trade that almost took place during the NBA draft effect both teams? Well, it’s certainly reasonable to assume with the lack of veteran leadership and cohesiveness that could have been occupied and strengthened by the likes of Jimmy Butler due to his familiarity with Tom Thibodeau’s system, the Timberwolves would be currently winning more games.

But at what cost? How much of your future do you sacrifice to win now? Has LaVine’s emergence justified not dealing him for a more establish player in Butler? With Ricky Rubio‘s current struggles at the point guard position, how much better does the pick of Kris Dunn look now that there a viable option for the future that fans can be excited about — especially if Rubio fails to turn things around.

Next: A Longer Look At The Timberwolves' Rotations

At this point, however, I believe that both teams benefited by not pulling the trigger on the rumored deal. Yes, the Timberwolves would have been better in the short-term from having Butler on the team but in my opinion, that doesn’t justify dealing off players under the age of 23 who all possess ridiculous talent and can possibly turn the Minnesota franchise into a perennial contender in just a couple of years.