Moments after winning the NBA draft lottery on May 6, the Boston Celtics promptly went out and lost badly to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That might have an impact on Jimmy Butler’s future with the Chicago Bulls.
The Cavaliers taught the Celtics a huge lesson, Namely, that they’re not as close to competing for top spot in the Eastern Conference as they thought they were. It was an old-fashioned conflagration. The 13-point final margin hardly tells the whole story. The Cavs led by more than 20 most of the game, but they just got bored, so the Cs cut the lead down.
How do these two things affect the Bulls? If the Celtics were even remotely close, they might think they’re a player away. And if their draft pick was only No. 3 or 4, they might deem it a worthy risk to trade it for Butler during the offseason.
The combination of Boston’s obliteration and winning the lottery more or less assures everyone that they’re going to stick with the long game, draft Markelle Fultz, who is a potential franchise player, and work with what they have.
That, in turn, eliminates the best possible trade partner for the Bulls if they want to deal Butler. Perhaps there’s still some scenario there, but Chicago would have to settle for 80 cents on the dollar.
Elsewhere, the Philadelphia 76ers had some bad luck. The Los Angeles Lakers got the second lottery ball, so the Sixers lost the chance at getting that pick this year. Instead, they will have to wait until next season to acquire it. “Trust the process” is no longer about the future. The fan base is ready to win now, and the Sixers may be more inclined to make a trade to help facilitate that. A package featuring this year’s pick and the better of next year’s pick and the Lakers’ pick might be enough to get a deal done.
The Lakers winning the second pick could make D’Angelo Russell available, as they are expected to draft Lonzo Ball. They could play Russell as a 2, they could bring him off the bench, or they could trade him. Butler for Russell and Brandon Ingram might be enough to pique the interest of both parties.
Still, the combination of events on Tuesday night decrease the chances of the Bulls being able to find an acceptable trade. Neither the Lakers nor the Sixers are close to competing, so they are more likely to take the patient approach. Even if they aren’t real contenders next season, with both teams having prolonged playoff droughts, fans will be content with postseason contention and young cores on the rise.
Boston was the best and most likely trade option for a good reason. Without the Celtics in the picture, it seems more and more likely that Bulls fans will realize their worst fears: a repeat of last season. With Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade looking for all the world like they’re going to return, it’s hard to see where there’s going to be much change next year, especially considering the fact that the Bulls front office of Gar Forman and John Paxson seem reluctant to take the rebuilding route.
Without the chance to land a franchise-caliber player, it looks like next season is going to be another middling one for the Bulls.