Even though Jimmy Butler hasn't played since Feb. 5 because of a knee injury, the Boston Celtics reportedly tried to make a splash before the Feb. 18 trade deadline by making an offer for the Chicago Bulls All-Star.
According to Steve Bulpett's Boston Herald report, which didn't name specific players involved, the Celtics "were willing to give up two first-round draft picks this year—the unprotected pick from the Nets and Dallas' choice, which is protected 1-through-7" for Butler.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune said he was told Boston's offer for Butler "was of lowball variety and talks didn't advance."
Bulpett's source did note that the Bulls were not shopping Butler in a trade, but "if Boston calls, you have to look at those picks and some of the players they have and at least hear them out."
If the Bulls were run by the people in charge of the Brooklyn Nets when the Celtics fleeced them in the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade, the "lowball" offer that included draft picks might have worked.
Another NBA source told Bulpett that Celtics general manager Danny Ainge is seeking a "difference-maker" who can help the team compete for an Eastern Conference championship.
Bulpett also mentioned the Celtics have "a measure of concern" about having so many draft picks this summer. They currently have up to eight total selections, four in each round, with first-round selections for Dallas and Minnesota protected, per RealGM.
Back on Feb. 19, Ainge vaguely discussed one potential deal the team nearly made at the trade deadline, per CSNNE:
"We were willing to do one deal, and it just didn't happen," he told guest hosts Ryan Johnston and Mike Flynn. "Both teams weren't ready to go. And it was a really tough, close deal. And it was certainly not a no-brainer. There was risk on both sides' part. But at the end of the day, both teams were not ready to do it."
The Bulls have been one of the NBA's most disappointing teams this season, currently sitting outside of the playoffs with a 30-30 record. Injuries have certainly played a role—not just with Butler, as Joakim Noah is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Despite Boston's interest, trading Butler wouldn't make sense for the Bulls. He just signed a five-year, $90.7 million deal last summer to remain in Chicago and has become the face of the franchise, leading the team in scoring (22.4 points per game) and ranking second in assists (4.3) this season.
Even though the Bulls are on the outside of the playoffs looking in, Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that Butler is on track to practice this Friday (h/t RotoWire via CBSSports.com). He can return and help the team sneak into the playoffs, where it would be a dangerous opponent.
The Celtics have been far better this season than anyone could have expected, owning the third-best record in the East, but they are still in search of a superstar who can help them compete with Cleveland and the Toronto Raptors in the postseason.
Butler would have been a terrific addition. He was just likely never a realistic option, even though the Celtics had nothing to lose by asking.