On Wednesday, Jimmy Butler broke the NBA community, as news was leaked he demanded a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to the numerous reports, the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks are his preferred landing spots.
In an effort to provide detailed information, at least in terms of projections, our writers took a look at each situation. It’s worth noting, this is not only in terms of Butler landing with whatever team, but potential assets involved in a trade.
Los Angeles Clippers receive: Jimmy Butler, Tyus Jones
If the Los Angeles Clippers play their cards right, they could create the NBA’s next superteam. Trading for Jimmy Butler would be the first piece of that puzzle.
The Clippers have little in the way of guaranteed salary on their books beyond this season. Even if they can’t shed Danilo Gallinari’s $22.6 million salary for the 2019-20 season, they could be staring at upward of $60 million in salary-cap space next summer. Waiving and stretching Gallinari would likely enable them to sign two free agents to max contracts, which would dovetail nicely with Butler’s long-term goals.
According to ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Butler wants the T-Wolves to send him to a team willing to hand him a five-year, $190 million max deal next summer. He’s also “trying to figure out a way” to play with Kyrie Irving, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Clippers have a number of point guards on their roster, but none of them are entrenched as the long-term answer at that position. If L.A. is willing to pony up for Butler, it could wind up landing two All-Stars for the asset cost of one, assuming Irving’s interest in playing with Butler is legitimate.
Tobias Harris will be an unrestricted free agent next July, so shipping him out for Butler wouldn’t be an enormous loss for the Clippers. Coughing up a lottery-protected first-rounder, rookie combo guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and sophomore 2-guard Sindarius Thornwell could backfire on them if Butler leaves next summer, but an under-the-table agreement ensuring he stays beyond the 2018-19 season would negate that concern.
If the Clippers could coax the T-Wolves to include Tyus Jones, who’s gotten buried behind Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose (God knows why), that could free them up to ship Patrick Beverley to another point guard-needy team (namely Phoenix).
This deal would keep Minnesota competitive in the short term, while Gilgeous-Alexander, Thornwell and the future first-round pick would align with the developmental curves of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. This is nowhere near the haul the T-Wolves gave up to get Butler last June, but they also have far less leverage now that Butler’s trade demand has gone public.For a Clippers team very much in transition, dealing for Butler is a risk worth taking.
New York Knicks receive: Jimmy Butler
It has been reported that the New York Knicks sit in second place on Jimmy Butler’s trade destination wish list. While bringing a player of Butler’s caliber to the Big Apple is something that the front office should be jumping at the chance to do, general manager Steve Mills announced at a fan event earlier this week that the Knicks will not surrender future assets for players that they can potentially sign this summer.
Butler falls squarely into that category.The Knicks will definitely try to get Butler in free agency in the summer of 2019; that means names like Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, and Mitchell Robinson are off the table in any trade negotiations. New York has been through this song and dance before when they sacrificed their trove of young talent to bring in Carmelo Anthony when he was basically guaranteed to sign with the team that coming summer.
Butler is less of a sure thing than Anthony was in 2012, however, Mills has learned from the franchises previous mistakes and is looking to avoid one in his attempt to bring good basketball back to Madison Square Garden.
In Courtney Lee, Minnesota will get a ready-made veteran contributor. Lee can be the primary perimeter defender and let Andrew Wiggins fall back in place as the Timberwolves number two, something he seemed much more comfortable with. Lee also provides a better three-point option for Thibs–Lee has shot 40 percent from three the past two seasons with the Knicks. Being able to stretch the floor for Karl-Anthony Towns and Wiggins is priority number one in any acquisitions the team makes.
Lance Thomas will mostly be another body for Thibs to run in the ground, but the final year of his contract in 2019-20 is only guaranteed for $1 million. Shedding his money isn’t an issue beyond this year if he is unable to latch on with the franchise.
The real kicker in this deal is the 2020 lottery-protected first round pick. It’s unlikely that many suitors will be willing to surrender draft capital for what could ultimately turn out to be a one-year rental of the 29-year-old swingman. For once, in seemingly forever, the Knicks control their current and future draft picks for the foreseeable future. New York can part ways with a protected pick a year down the road because they are looking to fortify their roster by pairing two high-quality free agents with Kristaps Porzingis this summer. Bringing in Jimmy know just gives them even more of a draw for a player like Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant to come aboard next season.
Brooklyn Nets receive: Jimmy Butler and Tyus Jones
For years now, the Brooklyn Nets have been acquiring young talent via trade or late in the draft, attempting to regrow the fur Danny Ainge fleeced off them in 2013. They’ve taken on exuberant contracts in exchange for future assets with an eye on the summer of 2019, keeping their books light beyond next season. Brooklyn is a primetime location and one that could attract free agents, given the well-regarded regime in place, which is headlined by general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson.
Now, the opportunity has presented itself to get a head start on next year’s free-agency class with Jimmy Butler. In Butler, the Nets secure a top-10 player and the chance to compete(?) for a playoff spot in the East as the core youngsters — Jarrett Allen and D’Angelo Russell — continue developing. While Brooklyn could potentially sit out the frenzy and wait for the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes in 10 months, the door is open for another Paul George-type situation in which Butler’s new employer convinces him to re-sign and the Nets miss out altogether.
The Nets have a host of intriguing talent, though none of it projects to an All-Star level right now. Perhaps another free agency bolts for Brooklyn (Kyrie Irving, anyone?) but without any top-notch youth, another season below .500 could dissuade prospective targets. With upwards of potentially $61 million available in max cap space next summer, Brooklyn would have enough money to sign Butler to a four-year, $141 million max deal ($35.25 million annually) and pair him with high-level talent.
Minnesota, meanwhile, lands two, gritty, switchy wings — Hollis-Jefferson and Carroll — who head coach Tom Thibodeau can run into the ground. Carroll also provides floor spacing (37.1 percent from three last year) and Hollis-Jefferson has just enough upside to potentially entice the organization. The third piece, LeVert, is a lanky, twitchy, 6-foot-7 combo guard/small forward capable of serving as a secondary creator off the bench. He needs to improve his defensive and shot-creating tendencies but at just 24 years old, he, much like Hollis-Jefferson, boasts the upside — the nectar of NBA front offices — to make trading Butler seem more appealing.
If Butler is gone, the organization must land pieces to surround Karl-Anthony Towns and embrace him as the long-term cornerstone — assuming he re-signs. While reports suggest the Wolves are determined to make the playoffs again, it’s unlikely a team sans Butler has the tools to do so. Carroll only has one year left on his deal while Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert are young enough to be complementary talent around Towns during the next era of Minnesota basketball. It’s not a flashy deal but stars rarely net fair value in return.
Brooklyn doesn’t empty the war chest and also nabs the analytics darling Tyus Jones while Minnesota primes for another rebuild with two intriguing young pieces and a potential lottery pick/two second-rounders. Given the current state of each side, injecting new life into the organizations might be what they both need. This trade does exactly that.