Try this on for size:
21.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.53 SPG, .498 FG%
19.4 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.07 BPG, .493 FG%
17.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 0.27 BPG, 1.7 3PM (per game), .439 FG%
Now if you could only choose two out of these three players for your team, which two would you choose? I believe the majority would select Players A & B.
Time for the big reveal:
Player A is the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler.
Player B is the Bulls’ Pau Gasol.
Player C is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love.
The reason for comparison is because this past summer, the Bulls made a trade offer to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love, which included Butler and the rights to Euro star Nikola Mirotic, who has also shined off the bench in lieu of an injured Taj Gibson. So did the Bulls dodge a huge bullet when Minnesota (not-surprisingly) rejected their offer in favor of the one they did accept from Cleveland: the #1 picks in the 2013 and 2014 drafts, respectively, in Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins?
As for whom Minnesota did accept in return, Bennett was a bust in his rookie debut for Cleveland last season and has shown little improvement in his sophomore campaign wih the T-Wolves, while Wiggins, once touted as a future superstar, has underwhelmed in the first month of his NBA career. Without question, the Timberwolves turned down a better offer from the Bulls, at least in the short-term. Wiggins may still pan out as a franchise player someday, but there’s no denying the insane numbers Butler is putting up this year.
And then there’s Gasol, the former Lakers star whom the Bulls signed with the money they cleared once they applied the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer. After whiffing on both trading for Love and signing marquee free-agent Carmelo Anthony, the Bulls “settled” on consolation prize, Gasol. Had the Bulls succeeded in obtaining Love or Anthony, Gasol would have signed elsewhere (meanwhile, Anthony is leading his Knicks into the NBA cellar with a 4-14 record as of publication time).
So the Bulls appear better off and deeper with the combo of Butler, Gasol, and Mirotic vs. Kevin Love. Perhaps the one area the rejected trade might have benefited Chicago is that it would have prevented Cleveland from adding another potential future Hall-of-Famer to its already-dangerous core of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Arguably Cleveland would have fared better off with Wiggins in the long-haul, but Love will help the Cavs contend for a title immediately.
Like the Miami Heat had in each of the previous four seasons, the Cavaliers now serve as the Bulls’ greatest obstacle in reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1998. It’s quite possible, if not likely, that these two teams will cross paths in the postseason come spring. It isn’t out of the question that Love, much as Chris Bosh had with Miami, will become the dismayed new villain to those fans west of Toledo.
However, even though the Bulls lost out on the Kevin Love sweepstakes, these fans have more to hope for than simply Derrick Rose staying healthy. Jimmy Butler looks like the real deal. It’s still early, but at least two Bulls appear All-Star Weekend bound, and neither is named Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah. That’s right; Butler and Gasol, the two players we fans almost missed out on seeing play in red and black this year, are both outperforming Kevin Love. How’s that for a consolation prize?