Jimmy Butler wants out of Minnesota.
On Wednesday afternoon, Shams Charania of the Athletic reported the Minnesota Timberwolves small forward wanted a trade out of the city. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. Butler’s preferred destinations are Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks.
Minnesota's Jimmy Butler has three preferred destinations for a trade, league sources tell ESPN: The Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks. Those three teams have max cap space to sign Butler as a free agent in July.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 19, 2018
The Timberwolves invested heavily in the 29-year-old just one year ago, trading point guard Kris Dunn, shooting guard Zach LaVine and a lottery pick (which turned into Lauri Markannen) in exchange for what will likely be just one season of Butler. A free agent at next seasons end, Butler averaged 22.2 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists as he was named an All-Star.
Butler’s reportedly willing to sign an extension with the team’s listed above, but which spot makes the most sense as a trade candidate?
The Knicks would be a nice fit for Butler, but there’s no reason for the team to self-implode to make it happen.
Dealing injured superstar Kristaps Porzingis is a non-starter, and beyond him, there’s not a lot of great pieces the Timberwolves could get that would subject a good return. A package of shooting guard Courtney Lee, guard Frank Ntilikina and small forward Kevin Knox (plus draft picks) might move the needle, but I’m doubtful the Knicks would give up so much in their first real attempt to rebuild properly. New York has the salaries to make a Butler trade possible, but a deal would be solely dependant on accelerating their rebuild – a move that’s got a history of failing in NYC.
New York would be best to wait until free agency instead of mortgaging the future to land Butler.
The Clippers don’t have a ton of young assets to make a Butler deal happen. However, if general manager Lawrence Frank wanted to give up one of his 2018 first-round picks, point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or shooting guard Jerome Robinson, plus a legitimate Butler replacement in Tobias Harris or Avery Bradley, then a deal can be had. The problem with a potential deal is the Clippers don’t need to make that deal. Again, why not just wait until free agency and keep what you have?
I think the most likely trade destination for Butler is the Nets.
Brooklyn GM Sean Marks has been incredibly creative in getting assets and being smart on the trade market. It’s how he landed D’Angelo Russell from the Lakers for practically nothing. The Nets are shedding more than enough salary at the end of the season to fit in a new Butler deal. The question is whether they’ve got the pieces to make a deal happen.
Hypothetically, the Nets could offer salary filler, there own 2020 first-round pick (unprotected) and give up a talented youngster like center Jarrett Allen, shooting guard Caris LeVert or 2018 first-round pick shooting guard Dzanan Musa to make a deal happen. Mark’s isn’t afraid to make big trades. His best chance at getting Butler might be jumping the line and ponying up the assets now while other teams stew it over.
Landing Butler would instantly make the Nets playoff contenders. For a team whose future once was DOA after the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade, Butler would represent quite the quick roster turnaround.
The Knicks, Clippers, and Nets all would be better with Butler on their roster. But, which team is willing to splurge now to get him? With training camp just days away, the offseason just got somehow even more interesting.