Last week, Jimmy Butler requested a trade from the Timberwolves. Here are some deals that could happen if they decide to move on without him.
Over the past half-decade, Jimmy Butler has transformed himself into one of basketball’s most valuable two-way players. Considering this, the Minnesota Timberwolves could receive a large return for Butler, who recently requested a trade from the team. However, there is only one year left on Butler’s current deal, giving teams less incentive to trade for him unless they have assurance that he will re-sign with them next summer.
Although many teams are either reportedly pursuing Butler or are at least interested in acquiring his talents, he only has three teams on his preferred destination list: the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, and Brooklyn Nets. In addition to these destinations, the Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, and Miami Heat are among the teams most interested in trading for the borderline superstar.
Let’s look at some potential trades that could make sense for these teams and would provide a substantial return for the Timberwolves.
Hypothetical trade: Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and the Knicks’ 2019 2nd Round Pick for Jimmy Butler and Tyus Jones
This trade would provide both immediate and long-term value for the Timberwolves and allows them to move on from the talented but pricey Jeff Teague. Although Carroll would serve as a manageable replacement for Butler as a solid two-way rotation player, the most value in this trade comes from Dinwiddie and Hollis-Jefferson.
Dinwiddie, at 25, is just entering his prime and put his talents on display in the absence of D’Angelo Russell last year. His noteworthy season earned him third place on the Most Improved Player Award voting. Finally, the addition of Hollis-Jefferson gives the Timberwolves an athletic two-way prospect to replace Butler, as he’s already a stifling defender with a developing scoring presence.
Giving up two young contributors from a rebuilding team would be a tough pill to swallow for the Nets, but the acquisition of Butler, and the possibility that he recruits another star next summer, would be worth it. Also, adding Jones to the deal gives them a proficient guard who could come off the bench behind Russell, who should be a quality starter this year if he stays healthy.
Los Angeles Clippers
Hypothetical trade: Tobias Harris and Lou Williams for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton
This trade would only make sense for the Timberwolves if head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau wants to keep the team in “win now” mode, which seems to be a likely possibility considering his recent unwillingness to trade Butler. This would give the Wolves plenty of scoring options to go alongside Towns and Andrew Wiggins, including one of, if not the best bench scorer in the league in Williams. The Timberwolves would have a terrific frontcourt rotation with Wiggins and the two newly acquired players, and could play plenty of small ball with these three and Towns at the center position.
As for the Clippers, they would not only be in a better position to recruit another superstar to join Butler during the summer of 2019, but would also have the perfect mentor to teach recent draft pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander how to be an effective scorer at the wing and guard positions. Also, while Patton may be viewed as trade filler in this deal, he can provide the Clippers with a young big man (albeit often injured), which is something that is lacking entirely on their roster.
New York Knicks
Hypothetical trade: Frank Ntilikina, Enes Kanter, and the Knicks’ 2019 1st Round Pick for Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague
The Knicks might be reluctant to make this deal because they would lose the cap space to obtain another max-level player with the addition of Teague’s obnoxiously large $19 million salary. However, considering Kyrie Irving’s recent loyalty displayed to the Boston Celtics, the Knicks may feel the need to lock in just one superstar for the future. The additions of Teague and Butler would immediately put the Knicks in contention for an Eastern Conference playoff seed, assuming Kristaps Porzingis plays the majority of the season after recovering from a torn ACL last year.
Despite the obvious loss of Butler, this deal would be a huge win for the Timberwolves in a dire situation. Not only would they receive a highly efficient big man in Kanter to put next to Towns, but they would also have a potentially exciting two-way guard to build around for the future in Ntilikina.
Although this type of player didn’t work out for Minnesota earlier with Kris Dunn, Ntilikina can provide more value on the defensive end than Dunn could in Minnesota, enabling him to be an effective piece in their rotation. Furthermore, shedding Teague’s salary would be a big plus in this trade, as it allows them to obtain quality free agents next offseason to build around.
Miami Heat And Phoenix Suns
Heat Receive: Jimmy Butler, Dragan Bender
Suns Receive: Goran Dragic, Heat’s 2019 2nd Round Pick (via Minnesota)
Timberwolves Receive: Kelly Olynyk, TJ Warren, Heat’s 2019 1st Round Pick
This deal would allow all parties involved to obtain what they are looking for—especially the Suns, who are in dire need of a starting point guard. While giving up Warren would be a big loss considering he averaged 19 points per game last year, the team has more than enough wing players to fill his absence in Josh Jackson and newly-acquired forwards Trevor Ariza and Mikal Bridges.
As for the Heat, it seems that they feel comfortable giving up quality starters and rotation players in order to obtain a player of Butler’s value, and taking a flier on Bender doesn’t hurt, either.
Although this trade wouldn’t give the Timberwolves any big-name prospects, it certainly fills the holes left on their roster without Butler and allows them to obtain a future one with the Heat’s first-rounder. The addition of Warren would give them a reliable scoring threat and capable defender, which is essentially just a downgrade from Butler minus his effective passing ability. Olynyk would be a versatile big man in Minnesota’s offense to play next to either Towns or Taj Gibson off the bench, along with solid passing ability to help the offense flow.
Hypothetical trade: Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Danny Green, and the Raptors’ 2020 2nd Round Pick for Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson
This would project the Raptors to be serious championship contenders, who would form a scary big three of Kawhi Leonard, Butler, and Kyle Lowry. With the additions of Butler and Leonard this offseason, the Raptors would be a nightmare for wing scorers, as these two are stellar defenders who can lock down their opponent on any given night.
Although the loss of Ibaka would hurt the team’s ability to protect the rim, the replacement of him with Gibson isn’t a huge downgrade and allows the team to feature more small-ball lineups with Leonard and Butler at the forward positions and Jonas Valanciunas at the five.
The disappointment of losing Butler for Thibodeau would be somewhat overshadowed by the addition of three stellar defenders and players who put in plenty of effort in Anunoby, Ibaka, and Green. Anunoby would be a terrific starter to replace Butler and shore up the defense, along with providing a presence in a playoff atmosphere that is unmatched by most players of his age. Ibaka would serve as a talented shot blocker next to Towns, who doesn’t yet have the shot-blocking pedigree of a player like Ibaka. Green would add a perimeter threat to the Timberwolves’ offense that would be lacking without Butler on the roster, considering Wiggins’ inability to shoot from deep efficiently up to this point in his career.
Once again, this deal would allow the Timberwolves to continue competing for playoff spots while acquiring an impressive prospect to build around.
Even though these potential deals are presented here, any details of a Butler deal remain unknown, as does Thibodeau’s desire to even get rid of Butler, who is fulfilling duties as the team’s general manager. We are aware of a couple teams interested in Butler and the teams he wants to go to, but a dark-horse candidate could just as easily win the Butler sweepstakes, given they provide the Timberwolves with the best offer available. Until we hear rumors about the deal or who the Timberwolves are looking to get in return, it’s a guessing game for now.
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