|On The Prowl|
I have thoughts on the shocking-yet-unsurprising news that Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, so let’s jump right in:
1. My timely prediction of Minnesota missing the playoffs this year suddenly looks quite prescient.
2. NBA years are like dog years. One year ago, the Butler-to-Minny trade looked like an absolute home run. Butler had two years (plus a player option for a third) to build chemistry with KAT and Wiggins; Chicago unnecessarily gave up the #16 pick in the draft, and the player they selected (Justin Patton) was going to be a steal; Kris Dunn was an overrated bust; #7 pick Lauri Markkanen was an overrated bust waiting to happen; and Zach LaVine was a one-dimensional athlete with a blown-up knee who would now be someone else’s problem to overpay. Fast-forward a year, and well, yeah, the LaVine part still holds up, but that’s about it. Dunn and Markkanen are promising building blocks; Patton’s foot looks like it’s going to derail his career before it starts; and most importantly, Butler’s relationship with the Wolves is fractured and irreconcilable, which leads to…
3. It’s Christmas come early for roster nerds because…IT’S TRADE MACHINE TIME!
Not only did a superstar in his prime request a trade, but he also gave a destination list to guide us in the right direction. Granted, his preferred teams (reportedly the Nets, Knicks, and Clippers) are not the only ones who may be willing or able to complete a trade for Butler (see George, Paul; Irving, Kyrie; and Leonard, Kawhi), but since he has indicated he would be willing to re-sign with those clubs, they should feel comfortable offering the most, so it’s a good place to start.
NBA Twitter is already all over this one, so let’s get it out of the way right off the bat:
TimberBulls jokes aside, there’s a lot to unpack here. I wrote yesterday how the Clippers could be positioning themselves to make a move for a star, and wouldn’t you know it, the next day one shakes loose who actually wants to play for them. I’m on a roll! Anyway, the Clippers:
Tobias Harris, SF
Patrick Beverley, PG
Clippers’ 2022 1st Round Pick
LA Clippers Receive:
Jimmy Butler, SG/SF
The Clips owe their 2019 first-rounder to the Celtics (via Memphis) as the convoluted result of a disastrous 2016 trade for, of all freaking people, Jeff Green (How? HOW????). The pick is top-14 protected in 2019 and 2020, then converts to a second-rounder, but because of the protections and the Stepien Rule, LA can’t include a future first-rounder coming before 2022 in a trade. This could be a turn-off for Minnesota, but they might like the idea of getting back two decently valuable players with no future money committed to them. The Clippers could also substitute rookie Jerome Robinson for Beverley, which would probably be much more attractive to the Wolves. In lieu of the pick, Minnesota could also use the trade as a mulligan on Gorgui Dieng’s horrific contract, exchanging him for Marcin Gortat’s expiring contract, though as a team which will still be trying to preserve cap space for next offseason (IS THAT KYRIE IRVING’S MUSIC??), the Clips would probably rather give up a pick than take on more long-term money. This is going to be a theme of the trade talks.
Moving on to the Knicks. This one’s a little tricky because all of New York’s assets are young, so Thibodeau would have to sign off on a full-blown youth movement, which is hard to see happening from the guy who doesn’t want anyone on his roster who wasn’t an All-Star in 2011. That being said, the Knicks have all their picks going forward, so it’s not inconceivable. Fire it up:
Courtney Lee, SG
Frank Ntilikina, G
Mitchell Robinson, C
Knicks’ 2019 1st Round Pick
New York Knicks Receive:
Jimmy Butler, SG/SF
The idea of pairing Butler, Porzingis, and Knox together for the next four to five years has to be enticing for the Knicks, even if it costs them two promising young guys and a pick. There would also still be a path to signing Kyrie Irving next summer, leaving them with a core of Butler/Irving/Porzingis/Knox that would be equal parts entertaining and terrifying, assuming they ever all got on the court at once. Again, I don’t know if all that upside is enough to get Minnesota to pull the trigger, but it’s really all the Knicks have to offer.
While the market size fits the bill, Brooklyn seems like a bit of an odd choice for the notoriously competitive Butler. Having finally emerged from the unending franchise nightmare of the KG/Pierce trade, I suspect the Nets might be a little gun-shy about immediately packaging more picks for a “win-now” star. They’ve picked their spots thus far under GM Sean Marks, so it would be surprising to see them push all their chips to the center now. But let’s see what it might look like anyway:
Allen Crabbe, SG
Caris LeVert, SG/SF
Brooklyn’s 2019 1st Round Pick
Brooklyn’s 2021 1st Round Pick
Jimmy Butler, SG/SF
If any of the other deals are on the table, I doubt Minnesota gives this one much thought. Brooklyn is just going to have a tough time drumming up the assets to make a move on a superstar at this point in their rebuild. A three-teamer is an option, but even in that scenario, they end up with a roster consisting of Butler and a bunch of spare parts. If I were part of their brain trust, the idea of shelling out multiple first rounders again after what they went through would make me sick to my stomach, so I am extremely skeptical of their involvement in these sweepstakes.
And one more, just for fun:
Giannis and Jimmy together? Those would be some fearsome deer.