Butler has spent his entire career with the Bulls after being selected with the No. 30 selection in the 2011 draft after three years at Marquette. Butler signed a five-year, $95 million extension last summer, and he'll be 27 years old when the 2016-17 season begins.
Butler thrived as a defensive wing under Tom Thibodeau, and has become one of the best wings in the entire league. Butler is a superstar talent, with an ability to create his own shot on offense and guard the best players on defense. When considering the best players in the league, Butler has to be included in the discussion.
Why would the Bulls want to trade someone with those skills? First, the Bulls could look to create a new team identity under Fred Hoiberg, who was signed as the head coach before the 2015-16 season. Butler's rise to fame came under a different head coach, and there has been conflict as Butler tries to figure out his new role with the team.
Second, the Bulls have franchise players approaching free agency. Derrick Rose will be in the final year of his contract next season, and a decision will have to be made to bring back the former MVP and Chicago native. Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah will be free agents this summer, and may decide to sign elsewhere after a tumultuous season in the Windy City.
Third, Butler's price may never be higher. Butler has dealt with knee injuries this season, suffering a left knee strain against the Nuggets before the All-Star break. He came back, and then rested again when his knee swelled from the activity during the game. The Bulls medical staff has found knee tendinitis in his left knee, and knee injuries are a scary thing to deal with for NBA players. If they move him before he suffers a serious injury or has to play reduced minutes, they'll be getting the most return for their asset.
Personally, I love Jimmy Butler. I wrote earlier this season about how he's an excellent comp for Gary Harris to work towards, and I have a lot of respect for what he's able to do on the court. If the Nuggets could make a move for him, I would fully support that decision. The question, then, is what they would have to pay to acquire him - and it would be a steep price to pay.
The Nuggets would likely have to send all their first-round draft picks this season to the Bulls (another reason I'm cheering for the Grizzlies to miss the playoffs, more picks to include in trade negotiations). They would also need to find a place for Danilo Gallinari - the Bulls probably wouldn't be interested, as they could move Doug McDermott into the starting lineup, or use one of the picks they get this season to add a wing there.
The Nuggets would then need to find a third team, one with the cap space for Gallinari's contract as well as a need for a playmaking combo forward. If that third team could send a smaller wing to the Bulls that could be more of a fit with the pieces they already have, all the better.
The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic are rumored to be interested in Butler, for good reason, but the Bulls may think twice before sending a player of Bulter's caliber to a conference opponent. Superstars usually are traded to a team in another conference (like Dwight Howard, for example) for the reason that the original team doesn't want to get burned by a vengeful former player year after year.
The first package that came to my mind was one with the New Orleans Pelicans as the third team. The trade would involve Tyreke Evans and Jusuf Nurkic going to the Bulls, along with the Nuggets likely three first-round draft picks this season. Tim Connelly could try to see if the Bulls would accept with two and Nurkic or three without Nurkic, but the Bulls wouldn't likely bend on demanding all three. Gallinari would go to the Pelicans, helping replace the shooting they lost with Ryan Anderson (in free agency) and teaming up with Anthony Davis to give him a legitimate small forward to play next to for the first time in his career. The Nuggets could try to get something back from the Pelicans, like future second-round picks, but the main prize would be Butler.
Butler would give the Nuggets the superstar player they've been interested in acquiring since Carmelo Anthony left, as well as help improve them towards playoff contention next season. They'd have cap space to sign free agents to fill the spots the draft picks were going to fill, and be set for a run at 50 wins. A Mudiay, Harris, Butler, Faried, Jokic starting lineup would be a really fun lineup to watch, on both ends of the court.
And hey - at least we already know that Butler would love to play in the town of his favorite football team.