If the NBA Draft is a stock exchange, the time to sell the Chicago Bulls was Thursday, when the team traded Jimmy Butler in a blockbuster deal that resembles a dumpster fire.
It also was the time to buy stock in the Minnesota Timberwolves, who stole the two-way star and will put Butler on the floor with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. One team in the trade has a promising future, and it’s not the Bulls.
“It’s insane, especially when you see what Butler got traded for — a can of dog food,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “The Bulls could have gotten something better. But they got almost nothing.”
After the draft’s conclusion, Sherman said, “The only odds adjustments we made were based on a trade.”
The Westgate lowered Minnesota from 100-1 to 60-1 to win the NBA championship. (Make no mistake, the Timberwolves are not threatening Golden State.) Chicago’s odds were raised from 100-1 to 200-1.
The Bulls, moving into total rebuilding mode, acquired young guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick, which was used wisely on 7-foot Lauri Markkanen from Arizona. LaVine wrecked his left knee in February, and Dunn averaged 3.8 points as a disappointing rookie.
The Timberwolves got the best player who moved on draft night, one of the league’s top 15 players. Butler posted career-high averages of 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists last season.
For no apparent reason, Chicago also sent Minnesota the 16th pick, which was turned into Creighton 7-footer Justin Patton, a big man with a high ceiling. The Timberwolves, 31-51 last season, might finally have a team that Tom Thibodeau can coach to play the defensive end of the floor.
The Bulls, who never should have let Thibodeau go, appear to be sinking into the NBA abyss. It could be said Chicago never won anything meaningful with Butler, but it did lead Boston 2-0 in a first-round playoff series before an injury to Rajon Rondo. Something needed to change, yet dumping Butler for role players was not the answer.
It made too much sense for Boston to work a deal for Butler. Again, the Celtics stubbornly balked at digging into their deep pile of future first-round picks.
Instead, there were reports the Celtics were attempting to deal for Indiana’s Paul George, and that made no sense with George heading into his final season before free agency and already declaring he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
George going to L.A. could have been the headline story. It will remain something to watch, with the Lakers sitting on about $50 million in salary cap space next summer.
“Every day that goes by, Indiana is losing value,” Sherman said. “The only way the Pacers trade him now is to get picks for next year. It eliminates a year of opportunity for them.”
At some point, maybe at the February trade deadline, the Pacers will be forced to part with George. Indiana had a positive night otherwise by picking two UCLA players — forward T.J. Leaf at No. 20 and center Ike Anigbogu at No. 47.
The first year of NBA Draft proposition wagering in Nevada was mildly interesting. There was action, but not a lot of it. “Probably about half of what we did on the NFL Draft,” Sherman said.
The biggest surprise to bettors was Anigbogu slipping to the second round. The prop on UCLA players selected in the first round was 2.5, and the ‘over’ price closed as high as minus-600 after opening as low as minus-210.
Butler was the 30th pick in the 2011 draft. The final pick of the first round in this draft was Villanova guard Josh Hart, who went to the Lakers via trade.
The prop on Duke players drafted in the first round stayed under 3.5, but barely. Blue Devils point guard Frank Jackson was the fourth to go as the first pick of the second round.
The total for players drafted from Gonzaga was 1.5 (over minus-120). Zach Collins, a power forward, went 10th. Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss made it two by going 55th to Utah.
The first six picks went according to mock-draft form — Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia), Lonzo Ball (Lakers), Jayson Tatum (Boston), Josh Jackson (Phoenix), De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento) and Jonathan Isaac (Orlando).
After the Bulls targeted Markkanen, the New York Knicks made a puzzling pick by grabbing raw point guard Frank Ntilikina, the first player from the French league to go in the top 10. The Knicks passed on Malik Monk, Dennis Smith Jr. and others.
The draft is mostly hype and speculation. But the Knicks still look like losers. The Sixers and Timberwolves were two of Thursday’s winners.
If Ball turns into a transcendent point guard, the Lakers will be winners, too, especially if they can land George eventually.