Why I think the Philadelphia 76ers should be giving the Chicago Bulls a call

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Jahlil Okafor
Photo via: Google Images
Jimmy Butler
Photo via: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday it was reported by Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.comthat the Chicago Bulls fielded calls from the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics about Pau Gasol, Derrick Rose, and Jimmy Butler near the trade deadline, but nothing materialized on the Butler-to-Boston front due to the Celtics’ reluctancy to include Jae Crowder in the deal.

Yes, the Bulls did inquire to a couple teams at the trade deadline about Butler and Rose, along with Pau Gasol, league sources tell CSNChicago.com. They had preliminary discussions with the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics, but when the Celtics wouldn’t put promising forward Jae Crowder in their package of picks and players, there was no realistic possibility of a trade.

Butler also has a five percent trade kicker, according to league sources, where the Bulls would have to pay him an additional $2.6 million to leave, essentially.

When an NBA fan hears about the possibility of a marquee player being traded, it’s their natural inclination to conjure up trade scenarios no matter now asinine they may be. So immediately I began to think of realistic destinations for Butler if Chicago indeed decided to ship him out. 

That’s when it hit me: the Philadelphia 76ers should pick up the phone, call Chicago’s brass, and inquire about a Jahlil Okafor-for-Butler swap

What?! 

Why not?

A year after being a LeBron James buzzer-beater away from possibly going up 3-1 on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bulls endured a turbulent season, their first campaign in the post-Tom Thibodeau era and under the tutelage of Fred Hoiberg. 

Stylistically, there is a stark contrast in the way Thibodeau and Hoiberg coach. 

Thibodeau was a demanding, defensive-savvy mind that churned out wins no matter what the circumstance was in Chicago. His teams enjoyed a fair amount of postseason success despite injuries and other misfortunes, and the Bulls always seemed to command respect as a “contender” despite never being able to leap the LeBron hurdle. 

Hoiberg’s approach is much more reserved. He’s a soft-spoken, laxed coach that elects not to stalk his way up-and-down the sidelines barking in the way Thibs did. Chicago had hoped by nabbing Hoiberg they would finally be able to inaugurate a faster-paced offense that would free up Derrick Rose along with Butler, but things went awry in the Windy City this season as the Bulls failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008

In addition to being marred by injuries to a slew of rotation players, including Butler for 15 games, there always seemed to be some drama engulfing the Bulls, like that one clique in high school that everyone gossips about.

Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler, Fred Hoiberg
Photo via: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

There were accusations of favoritism pointed in the direction of Butler, a supposed rift between Rose and Butler, and a pinch of disconnect in the locker room.

Whew.

The extent of the fissure Rose and Butler’s personal relationship has encountered will remain unbeknownst to the public, but there are some metrics that indicate things have gone stale between the two on the court.

According to NBAwowy.com, Rose and Butler perform better in several significant categories without each other on the court. Let’s take a glance shall we?

1. Rose & Butler on the court together.

Butler: 22.3 USG%, 1.12 PPP, 43.8 FG%, 47.3 2PT FG%, 31% 3PT FG, 20.6% AST.

Rose: 25.7 USG%, 0.93PPP, 41.6% FG, 44 2PT FG%, 28.8 3PT FG%, 22.6% AST.

2. Just Butler. 

30.5 USG%, 1.14 PPP, 47.3% FG%, 50.8 2PT FG%, 31% 3PT FG, 23.9% AST.

3. Just Rose.

31.6 USG%, 0.99 PPP, 45% FG%, 46.4 2PT FG%, 31.3% 3PT FG, 30.4% AST.

These numbers are merely a supplemental illustration to the eye-test. There’s just an awkwardness between these two on the court that’s too tough to gloss over. Both of these guys had arguably their best stretches of the season with the other one on the shelf, and even though Butler was hampered by an ailing knee down the stretch of the season, there’s plenty of evidence to point to the fact that the Rose and Butler marriage has lost it’s luster. 

I believe something’s got to give in Chicago, and I’m sure the Bulls recognize this too. What a dilemma to be posed with as Rose’s trade value isn’t particularly high and Butler is headed towards his prime. 

And if that isn’t enough, a miffed Butler publicly lashed out at Hoiberg for not coaching Chicago hard enough after an ugly 107-91 loss to the New York Knicks in mid-December. 

“I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah,” Butler said, when asked if this team needed a change in personnel as a shake-up. “But I also believe that we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times. I’m sorry, I know that Fred’s a laid-back guy, and I really respect him for that. But when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you gotta get on guys, myself included. You gotta do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.

“It’s on everybody. But I just think when it’s coming from [Hoiberg] it’s a lot different. It’s different when a player is telling another player, and a coach is telling a player. I know it’s really not in him like that, but I think at times that’s what we need.’

So what does all of this mean? When asked about Butler’s availability in trade talks, Bulls general manager Gar Forman had this to say:

Via Vincent Goodwill: 

When given the opportunity to boldly declare Butler as the untouchable piece, they left the door open to other ideas.

“I would say, I think John made it pretty clear we’ve got to take a look at everything,” Forman said. “We’ve got to explore all options and I don’t think there’s anything that’s off the table when you have a disappointing year like this. With that said, obviously Jimmy has had a fantastic year. From where he was to where he’s gotten to, he’s become a very, vey valuable player for us.”

“There’s one untouchable guy I’ve ever been around, Michael Jordan,” Paxson said. “So that’s how I’ve always looked at it.

Pick. Up. The. Phone. Philly.

Sixers fans spirits are sunken after the ousting of Sam Hinkie as Jerry Colangelo and his son Bryan have hijacked the franchise. Hinkie was gearing up for a summer in which Philadelphia was in a monetary position to splurge in hopes of reeling in some quality players and establishing some form of identity, but he was never given the chance to do so, depriving fans of the full unfurling of “The Process.”

Philadelphia 76ers, Sam Hinkie
Photo via: Crossingbroad.com

Instead, Hinkie mysteriously “resigned” with a 13-page letter. Hmmm. 

Anyways, what better way to re-energize the fans of Philly than landing someone the caliber of Butler, who happens to fill a much-needed void in the backcourt for Philly? After all, the Sixers did make an inquiry about Butler when he was a restricted free agent last summer, according to Grantland’s Zach Lowe. Fans may think I’m a lunatic for saying it should come at the expense of Okafor, but please let me explain.

Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft, had a respectable rookie season that was tainted by injury and some ugly off-court issues. His body language reeked of dismay, and he actually had to tell his father to stop heckling Sixers coach Brett Brown from his courtside seat. Simply put, Okafor didn’t seem overjoyed about playing basketball in the city of Philadelphia. 

The Sixers could offer the hometown kid and one of their draft picks as a sweetener to the Bulls for Butler, but of course a deal of this magnitude would hinge on several factors. Here are the two I deemed most important from Philadelphia’s standpoint:

  • Philadelphia’s confidence in Joel Embiid’s longterm health.
  • Philadelphia getting the Lakers’ top-three protected pick in the Draft. 

Let’s address the first one. 

Embiid’s grapple with health is well documented, so there’s no need to take a dive into that pool. Many believe if healthy, Embiid can be a transcendent talent that can move the Sixers’ win total north with ease. Here’s a video of Embiid that I could not stop salivating over yesterday. 

That is a HELL of a move for a guy of his stature coming off a severe injury. I don’t care if it’s just practice. It’s promising too. Especially when it’s all you have to cling onto. 

But the size of the if corresponding to Embiid is so gigantic that the Wells Fargo Center couldn’t even house it. This is what makes Okafor such a valuable asset. A safety valve if you will.

I’ve gone on the record of saying that I believe Okafor has played his last game as a Sixer, and nothing has changed my conviction. Along with Okafor and Embiid (hopefully), the Sixers will also have Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric (again, hopefully), Jerami Grant and possibly Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram in the front court fray. 

CROWDED. 

Out of all of those names, Okafor would yield the biggest return next to Simmons, which springboards me into the second issue, which is Philadelphia getting the Los Angeles Lakers top-three protected pick. 

Philadelphia purloining the Lakers’ pick would bode well for a trade scenario such as this one, because they’d then have a hefty package to throw at the Bulls.

Let’s say the Sixers end up with a top-three pick themselves then get the Lakers’ selection in the 5-10 range. They could then slide that pick (in a top-heavy draft might I add) into any Okafor package to really entice the Bulls.

Could the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder’s first round picks that the Sixers have be enough to woo Chicago? Possibly. But having that Lakers pick would come in handy not only in this hypothetical, but for wheeling-and-dealing elsewhere. 

As for Chicago, they’d have a future building block in Okafor, who would surely be ecstatic about playing in his hometown. This would also make it easier to let Pau Gasol, who is coming off a fine season but isn’t getting any younger, walk as a free agent and then they could re-sign Joakim Noah, who is looking to bounce back from an injury plagued season, to mentor Okafor. 

Philadelphia 76ers, Jahlil Okafor
Photo via: Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Of course this is all speculative, but really, Philadelphia has nothing to lose here. If Orlando and Boston both probed in regards to Butler, why shouldn’t the Sixers do their due diligence? Butler would not only instill excitement back into a desolate fanbase, but he’d act as a magnet to other free agents, illustrating that Philadelphia is ready to do away with the reputation they’ve built during the Hinkie days. 

I’d be surprised if any of this materializes, but it’s always fun to think about. Oh, but if this actually DOES happen, ask me for some lottery numbers, and if you win, let me get a slice of that pie. We all gotta eat.

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