Jimmy Butler and his Trade Request
With less than a week before the start of training camp for the 2018 NBA season, the Minnesota Timberwolves got some shocking news that will undoubtedly alter their season, and potentially alter the way the entire season plays out for 29 of the 30 NBA teams.
After spending the first six seasons of his career in Chicago with the Bulls, Jimmy Butler was traded last offseason to the Minnesota Timberwolves to play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins under the tutelage of his former coach, Tom Thibodeau. In his first year with the team, he averaged 22.2 ppg, 5.3 reb, and 4.9 ast on 47.4% shooting from the floor and 35% from three. Just one year after that remarkable deal that got the Timberwolves back to the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons, the four-time All-Star has requested a trade.
He met with Tom Thibodeau, the coach and president of the team, to inform him of that decision, and he gave him a list of three teams that he would be willing to sign an extension with. By doing this, he gave himself some leverage, making it known that teams shouldn’t bother trading assets for him because he will just leave in a year. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, those three teams are the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Those three teams are interesting to say the least, but there is a notable omission from his preferred destination. That notable omission is the Los Angeles Lakers, and I bet you didn’t think I’d find a way to talk about LeBron James in a piece that doesn’t actually involve him, but you’d be wrong and I’ll keep this short. It seems very apparent now that superstars in the NBA no longer have the desire to become spot-up shooters and scapegoats alongside the league’s premier martyr-baller, especially as he transitions from being the best player in the NBA into being a media mogul (with a new HBO show, other various projects, and Space Jam 2). Paul George chose to stay in OKC, Kawhi is in another country, DeMarcus Cousins is a Warrior, and the Lakers aren’t even on Jimmy’s list.
The three teams that Jimmy Butler reportedly wants to be traded to all play in big markets, and that seems to be pretty important to him. He wants to have a max contract and still be able to sign other impact players, which would be impossible in Minnesota due to KAT’s upcoming extension and Andrew Wiggins’ MASSIVE contract.
So, if you offer Jimmy Butler anything less than the Max (which, barring serious regression, he deserves) he’s going to toss that offer aside like this:
The Knicks have a new head coach who players that aren’t named Marc Gasol really seem to like. They’ve got several nice young pieces to potentially build around in Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Knox, and Frank Ntilikina. They also have one of the key players from Tom Thibodeau’s Chicago Bulls under contract, Joakim Noah. Noah is expected to be traded or released before the season starts, and he would fit right in with the new Minnesota Timberwolves, who are coincidentally mostly Chicago Bulls players. Noah could be the final piece of Thibodeau’s dream to create the Minnesota Timberbulls.
The Brooklyn Nets have a couple interesting players on their roster, but Jimmy Butler would no-doubt be the Star of the team, and it would allow for him to try and build his own team to compete in the East. The Los Angeles Clippers are the same way, but out West. Both the Nets and Clippers exist in the shadow of bigger teams like the Lakers and Knicks, but Butler would be the frontman for the Clips and Nets, and that’s a big deal to some professional athletes.
Now, those are the three teams that Jimmy said he would re-sign with right now, but there is always room for a team to take a one-year gamble and try to convince him to stay. That concept right there is perhaps the most interesting, because the opportunity to create an Eastern Conference Champion could lie north of the border.
The perfect team, in my opinion, for Jimmy Butler is the Toronto Raptors. They already showed this offseason that they aren’t afraid to take a gamble on a potential rental player, as they traded for Kawhi Leonard (and he is now apparently strongly considering signing long-term in Toronto). If Kawhi does opt to leave Toronto though, the Raptors have the opportunity to just rebuild, knowing they made the necessary moves to try and compete before Boston and Philadelphia’s championship windows open as wide as they can.
If the Raptors made the move to acquire Jimmy Butler and find a way to get out of Kyle Lowry’s contract at the same time, I see no real downside to the move. They would have two All-Stars, one of whom can be an MVP candidate, and those two stars are essentially just a souped-up version of what they had last year with DeRozan and Lowry. They would also be one of the best defensive teams in the league, as Butler has made four All-Defensive teams while Leonard has also made four All-Defensive teams and is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Though ultimately I think it’s unlikely that the Toronto Raptors make two moves like that in the same offseason, but it’s fun to think about. What I think will ultimately happen is that Butler will end up with the New York Knicks, and will spend the whole season recruiting Kyrie Irving to leave the Celtics and join him the following year. If that were to happen, the Celtics, 76ers, Knicks, and potentially the Raptors, would all potentially have equally good shots at representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA finals.
Ultimately this trade will shift the power dynamic across for 29 teams in the NBA, which will make the regular season more exciting. The thing is though, this move makes absolutely no difference in terms of taking down the Golden State Warriors. If Butler were to move to the Celtics or Houston Rockets, that would impact the Warriors, but there is no indication that a deal with either of those teams would happen. The Warriors still have Stephen Curry (3x champ, 2x MVP, only unanimous MVP in NBA history, greatest shooter of all time), Kevin Durant (2x champ, 1x MVP, 2x FMVP, 4x scoring champ), Klay Thompson (3x champ, 4x All-Star, 2nd greatest shooter in NBA history), Draymond Green (3x champ, 1x DPOY, 4x All-Defensive Team), and DeMarcus Cousins (4x All-Star, 2x All-NBA). There is no stopping that team unless they suffer major injuries to their key players.
With NBA training camps kicking off in just under a week, I am extremely glad that Jimmy Butler got the action kicked off a little early. It will be interesting to see if he is traded before camp starts, but I personally hope that he has to show up for media day and has to pose with the team and coach he just requested to be trade away from. That would be absolutely hilarious.
The NBA is officially back, and it might be better than ever.