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Rebuild-a-Bulls: Butler trade signals hard Chicago reset

Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) makes a pass against the Boston Celtics during the second half in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at United Center in Chicago on April 23, 2017. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — Finding an identity under coach Fred Hoiberg meant trading the face of the franchise for the Chicago Bulls.

All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler was relocated to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, June 23 after more than a year of simmering trade talks involving Butler, who reunites with former coach Tom Thibodeau.

"What we've done," Bulls vice president John Paxson said, "is set a direction. We've decided to make the change and rebuild this roster. We're going to do it with young players we believe can play a system Fred is comfortable with."

Last summer, the Bulls parted with Joakim Noah and traded former point guard Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks. Another step away from contention and into rebuilding mode was the best path, per Paxson.

"We understand what this means," Paxson said. "It's going to be a difficult process."

Hoiberg installed a run-and-gun system predicated on successful 3-point shooting. But Butler and Dwyane Wade were the centerpieces of the offense — one piloted by pass-first, light-shooting point guard Rajon Rondo — last season and neither is a marksman from the perimeter.

In return for Butler, the Bulls received the seventh pick in the draft — which turned into stretch-5 Lauri Markkanen from Arizona — along with 2016 No. 5 overall pick Kris Dunn and electric guard Zach LaVine, the former UCLA product who is recovering from a torn ACL.

Rondo and Wade return barring another deal orchestrated by Paxson.

But without Butler, the Bulls' direction is to be determined.

Butler, the 30th overall pick in 2011 out of Marquette who developed into a three-time All-Star, is a tremendous wing defender and blossomed on Thibodeau's watch before the Bulls let the hard-nosed coach walk.

Minnesota pairs Butler with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to give the Timberwolves a playoff-ready contender built around young stars.

"I give Tom a lot of credit," Paxson said. "He was professional and I think handled it all really well. It's great for them. They are in a position where they had drafts over the last number of years that have gotten them young talent."

Butler learned of the trade in the middle of the night in Paris, where he is traveling with a group of NBA players, including Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.

The Wolves received the 16th pick from the Bulls and selected Creighton big man Justin Patton.

But Thursday night was about adding Butler.

"We were looking at all the possibilities," Thibodeau said. "If there was a way to get a player of Jimmy's ability, we were going to do it."