NEW YORK, June 23 (Reuters) - Beyond the scouting, strategy and suspense of teams trying to select the right player for their slot in the NBA Draft, a spate of trades spiced up the proceedings at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Thursday.
The biggest bombshell sent All-Star guard Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves, where Butler was reunited with his former coach Tom Thibodeau.
The T-Wolves also received draft rights to 16th pick Justin Patton of Creighton, while the Bulls beefed up their roster by getting promising Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the rights to Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen of Finland, the seventh player taken.
Butler, one of the league’s most dynamic two-way players, joined forces again with Thibodeau, who coached the Bulls for five seasons before being fired in 2015.
A dependable scorer and hard-nosed defender, Butler gives Thibodeau an intriguing complement to the Wolves’ young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
The Wolves drafted Arizona’s sharpshooting forward Markkanen for the Bulls, while Chicago took Creighton forward Justin Patton at number 16 for Minnesota, who have gone 13 seasons in a row without reaching the playoffs.
Butler, 27, averaged career highs in points (23.9), rebounds (6.2) and assists (5.5) and as a top defender brings a key ingredient to a team that ranked 26th in defensive efficiency.
Los Angeles, under new basketball operations chief Earvin “Magic” Johnson, paved the way for a return to their ‘Showtime’ flair by trading young point guard D‘Angelo Russell and taking dazzling backcourtman Lonzo Ball of UCLA with the second pick.
The Lakers sent Russell and Russian center Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for center Brook Lopez and the rights to forward Kyle Kuzma, the 27th pick in the draft, out of Utah.
Russell, the second overall choice by the Lakers in the 2015 draft, averaged 15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals last season.
Nine-year veteran Lopez appeared posted averages of 20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 blocks last season while becoming the longest-tenured player in Nets history.
The Lakers also exchanged picks with the Utah Jazz, who made another deal with the Denver Nuggets, while the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers agreed on a two-for-one swap.
Sacramento sent Portland the 10th pick (forward Zach Collins) for the 15th (forward Justin Jackson) and 20th picks (center Harry Giles).
Editing by Rory Carroll