The Boston Celtics made a "strong move" to trade for Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler before the trade deadline last month, reports the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett. The talks obviously didn't go anywhere, but for Boston, which has been trying to acquire a star to take the next step toward becoming a contender, this gives an idea of the kind of player GM Danny Ainge wants to acquire.
Talks between the two sides didn't advance far because the Celtics' offer "was of [the] lowball variety," reports the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson. Boston was reportedly willing to give up two high picks this year -- the Nets' unprotected pick and the Mavericks' top-7 protected pick -- as part of its offer. However, Butler is one of the best players in the NBA and signed long-term, so the Bulls likely pushed for a massive haul in exchange for the 26-year-old.
The Celtics are currently third in the East with a 36-25 record and look like they could make a run in the playoffs this spring. Isaiah Thomas and coach Brad Stevens have helped a quick turnaround that's making Boston an increasingly appealing place for top players. The team also has an impressive cache of assets thanks to Ainge's deft dealing in recent years. The challenge has been finding the right fit to move some of those picks and young players for a star to help turn the team into a contender.
Butler surely would've been that kind of player for the Celtics as one of the game's premier perimeter scorers and defenders. In the first year of a five-year max contract, Butler is averaging 22.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He leads the NBA in minutes per game for the second straight season.
That also helps explain why Chicago would have little interest in moving Butler. While the Bulls have had a disappointing season due to injuries and some struggles on the court, Butler remains the team's centerpiece and franchise player. Unless the team was committing to an outright rebuild, which there's little reason to believe management is interested in, then it would be difficult to trade an All-Star in his prime like Butler without a compelling reason to do so. Good picks in the upcoming draft apparently don't qualify.
Boston clearly wants to shoot high when it comes to adding a major player to its current roster. The Celtics are already good and need a great player to take them over the top. Butler would've been that kind of player, but it takes a unique situation for a team to be willing to trade someone like that. Chicago, in this case, wasn't ready for what Boston was offering. The Bulls did seem to listen, though, which could give hope that there might be some options by the offseason.