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John Paxson tries to explain the change of heart to go with a rebuild

John Paxson didn’t exactly clear the air.

At the end of the season back in May, the Bulls’ vice president of basketball operations insisted that an offseason rebuild wasn’t on the horizon.

By Thursday night, circumstances changed when the Bulls sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota and acquired a new backcourt in Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. They also swapped draft picks.

Paxson was asked if watching the NBA Finals and seeing how far away the Bulls were from Cleveland and Golden State influenced the change.

“It wasn’t so much about watching anything in the playoffs as really this was the first opportunity we felt the deal presented itself that made sense,’’ Paxson said. “I said at the trade deadline this past year that we needed a certainty in terms of jump-starting this thing. When you talk about certainty, you talk about young players, draft picks, that give you a leg up on it.

“That presented itself late [Thursday].’’

According to one Bulls source, it was really the only deal that did. All the talk about Boston, Phoenix, Denver? None of them were willing to part with early-round picks, so the offer from the Timberwolves was as good as it got.

“It is rebuilding,’’ Paxson said. “There’s going to be a lot of bumps along the road.’’

Plus, a Bulls source said the real key acquired in the Butler trade was the hope of a top-five pick next season, as Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri), DeAndre Ayton (Arizona) and Luka Doncic (Spain) headline a top-heavy class.

Say what?

The Bulls selected Jordan Bell in the second round, but traded him to the Warriors for $3.5 million. So why do that in a rebuild?

“We had some wings on our board that we had targeted that were the only way we were going to keep that pick,’’ Paxson said. “And they went before us. We didn’t want to add another big. And it keeps us now, we’re at 12 roster spots, it gives us real flexibility with our roster. We didn’t want to just use up a roster spot on a player that we probably wouldn’t have kept.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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