The Bulls didn't win trade deadline day, but they came away with one of the biggest prizes, according to executive vice president John Paxson.
They landed a first-round draft pick from New Orleans last week in the Nikola Mirotic trade. That pick is top-five protected in 2018 and right now projects as No. 17.
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Outlook: This game needs no introduction. It will be the first time Jimmy Butler or Taj Gibson play at the United Center as a visiting player, plus another reunion for coach Tom Thibodeau and veteran guard Jamal Crawford. The Timberwolves lost a heartbreaker at the buzzer in Cleveland on Wednesday despite Butler's 35 points. On the season, Butler is averaging 22.3 points and 5.1 assists. C Karl Anthony Towns is at 20.1 ppg, SF Andrew Wiggins 17.9 ppg, while Gibson is contributing 12.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. Minnesota (34-23), trying to snap the league's longest playoff drought at 14 years, has won four straight against the Bulls.
Next: Washington Wizards at the United Center on Saturday, 7 p.m.
-- Mike McGraw
The only first-rounder that changed hands Thursday was Cleveland sending its own pick, No. 24 at the moment, to the Lakers. So getting an extra rebuilding block wasn't a bad return for the Bulls.
"Draft picks, especially first-rounders, are becoming like gold to a lot of franchises," Paxson said, "because in these markets where cost certainty for young players … it's a big thing. We look at it this way: We got the three young guys in the (Jimmy Butler) trade last year, we're going to have two picks most likely in this draft, and we've got Bobby (Portis) and Denzel (Valentine) as young guys. That's seven young pieces, and we just need to continue develop them, grow, and make smart decisions, not get in a rush."
While Cleveland was the talk of deadline day -- shipping out six players, including ex-Bulls Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade, while adding four -- the Bulls did make two small moves.
The Bulls acquired power forward Noah Vonleh from Portland for the rights to obscure Swiss league center Milovan Rakovic and sent Jameer Nelson to Detroit for center Willie Reed, who was immediately waived.
The purpose behind the Vonleh trade was Portland wanting to avoid paying the luxury tax, so they basically paid the Bulls to take him off their hands. The No. 9 pick of the 2014 draft out of Indiana, Vonleh has been disappointing in the NBA, averaging just 3.9 points and 4.5 rebounds over four seasons.
Assuming the 6-9 Vonleh sticks around, the Bulls can take a look at him for the remainder of the season, let him play for the Windy City Bulls some of the time and see if he has some talent they could develop. A good rebounder, Vonleh has averaged 12.6 per 36 minutes this season.
The Bulls took on Nelson last week in the Mirotic trade. Rebuilding isn't a good fit for a 35-year-old, so the Bulls moved him to a playoff contender and saved some money since Reed has a smaller salary.
Reed was recently suspended six games by the NBA because of a domestic violence charge. The Bulls also get the right to swap second-round picks in 2020 in this deal.
Paxson said there was interest in veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, but both players are valued for their leadership roles and the Bulls weren't interested in taking on any long-term bad contracts. The Bulls accepted the $14.2 million left for Omer Asik in the Mirotic trade. Next year, they will have Lopez, Asik and Holiday on expiring deals, which could work well in a trade.
Early returns on the Butler trade have been positive for both sides. Minnesota is currently fourth in the West, and the Bulls have seen promising results from all three players they got -- Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn.
"We're determined to not try to go too fast," Paxson said. "We like the young pieces we have. And we believe over time we're going to get the right pieces here. It's one of the reasons that sometime after the all-star break, we're going to throw more of our young guys out there for significant minutes because we have to know. We have to see who fits us going forward."
The players getting increased minutes should include point guard Cameron Payne, who saw his first action since recovering from foot surgery and scored 29 points for the Windy City Bulls on Wednesday. Paxson said the plan is for Payne to join the Bulls after the break.
Several ex-Bulls changed teams Thursday. Cleveland sent Rose to Utah in a three-team deal. The Jazz are expected to release Rose and he may end up in Minnesota with coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Cavs also traded Wade to Miami for a second-round draft pick. With things not going well in Cleveland, Wade apparently felt he'd rather move his family back home.
Doug McDermott was traded from the Knicks to Dallas in a three-team deal that saw guard Emmanuel Mudiay go to New York and Devin Harris to Denver.
On the day, the Cavs added Rodney Hood from Utah, George Hill from Sacramento, along with Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Lakers. Besides Rose and Wade moving along, Cleveland sent Jae Crowder to Utah, with Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye going to the Lakers.