The Denver Nuggets held separate discussions leading up to Thursday night’s NBA draft about deals to acquire Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler or Phoenix Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe, sources told ESPN.
The deal with the Bulls would include draft picks and multiple young players but not Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, a source said.
In the trade with the Suns, the Nuggets would send point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and the No. 13 overall pick to Phoenix in return for Bledsoe, league sources said. Sources described the dialogue for those negotiations as “fluid.”
Denver has for some time been seeking an upgrade at point guard.
The Wolves received the No. 16 overall pick in Thursday night’s draft, which was used to select Justin Patton, the freshman center from Creighton.
The Bulls, meanwhile, acquired guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine as well as the No. 7 overall pick Thursday night, which was used to select 7-footer Lauri Markkanen from Arizona.
“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” said John Paxson, the Bulls’ vice president of basketball operations. “We’re going to do it with young players. We’re going to be disciplined and patient.
“These are hard things to do. We traded a guy we really like. Tonight, we made a decision to change direction and define our path.”
Butler was in Paris when he learned of the trade, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. He found out from his agent, Bernie Lee, about 2 a.m. Paris time.
When asked about the deal, Butler told Goodman he did not have a comment.
Butler was in France, along with several other NBA players, including Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, where they were attending the Paris fashion shows.
Markkanen, meanwhile, is the first Finnish-born player drafted in the lottery. His 69 3-pointers last season were the most by a 7-footer in college basketball in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Rondo, 31, has a team option worth more than $13 million, and the Bulls’ front office spoke after the season ended that it was very likely that Rondo would return. Now that the Bulls have dealt Butler, the idea of seeing Rondo again in a Bulls uniform seems far less likely.
“As far as Rajon, we told you how highly we think of him,” Paxson said. “Zach and Rajon share the same agent, Bill Duffy, who is here today. We’re going to sit down with Bill and talk through [things]. We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team. The right veterans. The guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys, and continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”
Another main topic of concern during Tuesday’s meeting with reporters was the health of LaVine’s left knee. LaVine tore the ACL in his left knee last February, but he sounded confident Tuesday that he will play at a high level again at some point next season. While he didn’t put an exact timetable on his return, LaVine was optimistic about the rehab process, and Bulls officials are confident he will be back on the floor sooner rather than later.
“I’m going to be safe,” LaVine said. “The main thing is always being safe. And I always have to take care of myself and this franchise as well, so I’m going to be safe. I’m going to do everything I can physically to get back, and then when I’m at that point, I’m going to be ready. I’m the type of person that’s going to work my butt off to get there as fast as possible. I’m going to be ready when I am there.”