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Timberwolves, Bulls both won in Jimmy Butler trade

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler (23) controls the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half at Target Center on Saturday, Feb. 3. The Timberwolves won 118-107. (Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports)

MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves' deal to bring Jimmy Butler to Minnesota in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a swap of first-round picks on draft night was originally viewed as a big win for the Wolves and a "what are you doing?" type of move for the Chicago Bulls.

But time heals all misconceptions.

"Public eye sometimes doesn't affect real basketball people," Zach LaVine pointed out.

Minnesota has gotten exactly what it wanted out of Butler. He's changed the culture in the locker room, significantly aided in the development of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, helped improve the team's defense and transformed the Wolves from up-and-comers to contenders.

Butler is a legitimate MVP candidate.

But Chicago got what it wanted, too. The Bulls were stuck prior to trading Butler. They had one All-NBA player and not much surrounding him. Butler was enough to get them into the playoffs, but they couldn't build a supporting cast capable of boosting them into championship contention.

It was time for a rebuild, one that required good young pieces. That's what Chicago was aiming for when it traded Butler, and that's what it got.

LaVine recently returned from the ACL injury that ended his time with the Timberwolves, but Chicago has liked what he's done on and off the court already.

"He's high energy, he comes in and oozes confidence when he's on the floor, and I think that carries over to the rest of the team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "With Zach out there, with his skill set, his ability to shoot the ball with unlimited range, his ability to get out in the floor and run and attack in transition and just his athletic ability, you see so many things that you can do with him. ... I'm really excited about the future."

After a challenging rookie season in Minnesota, Dunn has taken major strides with a fresh start in Chicago.

"We've loved what he's shown us," Hoiberg said. "He's shown us a lot and is a kid that's really going to have a bright future with the way point guards are in the league right now. ... Our pace went all the way up to second in the league once we put Kris into the starting lineup, and he just gives us so much because of his ability to get into the paint and collapse the defense."

And Lauri Markannen, whom Chicago selected with the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft — Minnesota's pick — has been one of the best rookies in this class, flashing his offensive prowess at the ripe age of 20.

"We think he's got a chance to be an absolute superstar as he continues to develop," Hoiberg said. "He's 20 years old. Some of the things he's shown, his ability to stretch the floor, but also put it on the deck and get to the rim, he's got a mid-range game, he's got something in the post, and as he continues to get stronger, he's got a chance to be really, really special."

The Bulls have three young, talented pieces at the core of a rebuild that's given the franchise a new sense of direction — one Chicago badly needed. Bulls president of basketball operations John Paxson said both teams have to think something works for them in order to execute a trade, but usually the trade results in an imbalance, with one side benefiting far more.

There are still a few things to be seen in terms of the trade. Paxson noted the Bulls still haven't seen how LaVine, Dunn and Markkanen fit together on the court, and Wolves rookie center Justin Patton — selected by Minnesota with the 16th pick, which was part of the first-round pick swap between the teams — has yet to play an NBA game. But early returns suggest this appears to be a rare example of a fair deal that both sides are happy with.

"I don't think there's any doubt," Paxson said. "We're really happy. I won't speak for Minnesota, but they've got an all-star player in Jimmy Butler to go along with their young core, and it seems to have addressed the desires of both teams. In this business, if you can do that, that's a good thing."

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