Enter the Boston Celtics, who are armed with a treasure chest of eight draft picks, including the No. 3 selection via the Brooklyn Nets. If the Bulls swallow hard and elect to hit the reboot button, the Celtics have the sort of picks that might help craft an intriguing package.
Not surprisingly, Celtics fans are salivating at the possibility of getting Isaiah Thomas an All-Star tag-team partner and, well, we all know how much Brad Stevens likes things with the name Butler.
Is there any real shot to make a deal here? ESPN.com's Celtics reporter Chris Forsberg and Bulls reporter Nick Friedell huddled to ponder the possibilities.
Friedell: Mr. Forsberg, somebody asked me the other day whether I would rather have the Bulls' situation moving forward or the Celtics' situation moving forward. The answer was pretty easy in my mind: I think the Celtics are better equipped to challenge in the East at this point. Not only do they have a solid foundation of young, talented players and a slew of draft picks, they have one of the best coaches in the league in Stevens. The Bulls' front office is hoping that Fred Hoiberg can learn from some of his mistakes in a rough first season, but he isn't Stevens.
Forsberg: While the Celtics are certainly in a desirable position, the next step in their march back to true contender status will be the toughest. Boston needs more pure talent to really challenge the Cavaliers in an otherwise wide-open East, but finding the star who can propel this young and intriguing core to the next level is no easy chore, even with all of Boston's assets. That is exactly why Celtics fans perk up any time reports like these bubble up that an All-Star might be available.
But is Butler really available? You wrote in Insider’s 5-on-5 earlier this week that you thought the Bulls should consider moving on from Butler and dive headfirst into the rebuild. The Bulls sent Butler to the NBA draft lottery last month as sort of the face of the franchise and that leaves me doubting whether they'd really be willing to part with a 26-year-old star signed to modest money. So just how likely is Chicago to truly consider going the nuclear route?
Friedell: If we were headed to Vegas to put a bet down on what the Bulls decide to do this summer, I would still bet that they decide not to unload Butler because they don't feel they'll get enough value in return. Having said that, I think the probability of Butler being dealt is much higher than most fans would believe. Butler rubbed a lot of people the wrong way last season with the way he handled himself on and off the floor. He didn't adjust well to being more of a vocal leader of the group. To Butler's credit, I think he hears the criticism and is going to try to change some things going into next season.
But if you're the Bulls, are you committed to Butler being the face of your team and the player you want to build around? Bulls GM Gar Forman wouldn't commit to that when asked that exact question at the end of the season. I don't believe they are, but I also don't think the situation is so bad that they are going to move him at any cost. When you look at the Bulls' roster, Butler is really the only real valuable asset they have in terms of getting a serious haul back in return. He's young, has developed into one of the best two-way players in the league and signed a max deal last summer that, in the grand scheme of the new era of NBA money, actually isn't that bad.
If any Butler deal goes down, it would have to be for a combination of draft picks and high-level young players. That is why I'm sure Forman and Danny Ainge will continue a dialogue all summer.
Forsberg: So you’re telling me there’s a chance! Listen, Legal Sea Foods can offer all the free crab legs it wants, but Celtics fans know that Kevin Durant is a long shot this summer (unless the Celtics add more established talent to make this situation look even more intriguing). Because the free-agent market is otherwise thin on desirable stars, the idea of using Boston’s draft stash to lure another star such as Butler might be Boston’s only legitimate path to both becoming more competitive and having a chance to make a huge splash in free agency.
So you put on your Forman hat, I’ll get my Ainge cap and let's move to the armchair general manager lounge. Give me a deal that you think the Bulls might consider.
Friedell: Can I just wear my Cubs hat? I've been saying for a while that the Bulls should blow up the roster. I'm sure Gar is sick of listening to me. Here's where I think this gets interesting for the Bulls. Boston has some pieces that would interest them or any other team. What about Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, this year's No. 3 pick, and a future Brooklyn pick? I can hear Boston fans cringing and screaming from here. But I think this is where the discussion would get serious for the Bulls.
Forman and John Paxson don't exactly have Ainge's track record as far as wheeling and dealing goes. The biggest in-season move they've made since I've been here was landing my fellow Syracuse alum Hakim Warrick and Flip Murray. That's why, when push comes to shove, I'd still be surprised if they moved Butler.
Forsberg: That's a hefty haul and some Celtics fans will suggest that it's too much of a ransom to pay for a player whose production only marginally exceeds one of the outgoing players in Crowder. Don't misinterpret: Crowder has a long way to go to be on Butler's level, but adding in the value of those two Brooklyn picks and the fact that Bradley is an All-Defensive first-teamer and established starter and it's just too much.
But I'm not running from the table. If I'm Boston, I'd counter by pulling Crowder but adding more picks (Nos. 16 and 23 this year do anything for you?) and a young player (maybe someone like 2014 first-round pick James Young, who is still only 20 years old and simply hasn't been able to make an impact in Boston yet). Then add a nonguaranteed deal like Jonas Jerebko or Amir Johnson to help match up salaries.
Let’s say the two sides hammer this out and consummate a deal on draft night. Now the Bulls are on the clock at No. 3 with Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons off the board. Who do you think the Bulls would desire? Could Kris Dunn start the process of moving Derrick Rose in a monster overhaul?
Friedell: Here's the reality, my man -- the Bulls could go in a lot of different directions and nothing would surprise me. They have a lot of holes on the roster right now. Dunn makes sense, but they also need a lot of scoring, athleticism and young big men to build around. In short, they need everything, especially knowing that all signs point to a divorce with Rose either this summer or after his contract runs out next season.
Forsberg: Let's call this into the league office so the Celtics can get started on their sales pitch to Durant in hopes that he, Butler and Thomas could form a new big three and give the Cavaliers a legitimate threat to worry about.