Jimmy Butler had big dreams for the Bulls’ roster before the trade

LAS VEGAS — Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knows he acquired more than just a great player in Jimmy Butler in that draft-night deal.

Thibodeau, the Timberwolves’ coach and president of basketball operations, also acquired Butler’s contact list.

“I think it’s critical,’’ Thibodeau said Saturday when asked about the effect Butler would have in building his roster. “I think anytime you can add an elite player to your team, most players are aware. When they’re looking around, when they become free agents, they’re going to look at the financial part first. And then the second part is going to be who they’re playing with and how they fit into the group.

“And when you add in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, I think it makes it that more attractive. And, of course, Jimmy has relationships with a lot of guys in the league because of his experience in All-Star Games, with Team USA, so that all factors into it.’’

Since acquiring Butler, the Timberwolves have added Jeff Teague and former Bull Taj Gibson in free agency. Also, numerous reports have them signing Jamal Crawford by Monday.

Butler always has been open and honest about the importance of recruiting, and he has shown a willingness to do it.

That’s what he was looking to do this summer for the Bulls before he was dealt.

According to a source, Butler’s plan after meeting in June with vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman was to talk Kyle Lowry into a free-agent meeting, then really go on the hunt for another superstar next summer when more money came off the books.

“You talk to all your players, particularly guys who have experience playing with somebody,’’ Thibodeau said of his dialogue with Butler the last few weeks. “You want to get their thoughts. They know them better sometimes . . . and you’re always gathering information along the way. Our database is filled with reports on all the players in the league, so that when opportunities do come up, we want to know the player well. Jimmy’s opinion is important, Karl’s opinion is important and so is Andrew’s.’’

Name recognition

Summer League apparently wasn’t ready for Lauri Markkanen, the seventh pick in the 2017 draft from Arizona.

That was evident when he took the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center with his surname misspelled (Markkenan) on the back of his jersey.

Markkanen, however, looked more than ready for Summer League.

Acquired on draft night as part of the Butler trade package, the 7-footer had an immediate impact against the Mavericks with nine points on 4-for-5 shooting, including two dunks and a three-pointer, in the first quarter.

He finished with a team-high 14 points and eight rebounds in the Bulls’ 91-75 loss.

“They gave me a [correct] jersey in the third quarter, but I didn’t want to change it on the bench,’’ Markkanen said. “It’ll be right on Monday, I hope. The good thing is I hope when the regular season comes, that doesn’t happen again.’’


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