On September 19th, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler has officially requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Butler listed three teams: New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers as preferred destinations.
It’s obvious that Butler wants to be the guy on a big market squad. These three teams also have cap space galore come next summer, so in his mind, he won’t be alone in 2019-20.
Butler’s career has been an interesting one thus far. He was used sparingly in his first two seasons with the Chicago Bulls after being picked 30th in the 2011 draft. In 2013 however, Butler became a huge player for the consistent Eastern Conference contender and led the entire league in minutes in years three and four after only averaging 17.5 minutes per game in his first two.
He has become a consensus top-20 player in the league and has been to four straight All-Star games. His rise seemingly came out of nowhere but thanks to a belief from current Timberwolves, and former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, and a seemingly crazy work ethic Butler became a force in the league.
With this force however, has come issues with teammates, coaches and front-offices. Butler has been on the record as saying that him and former Bulls teammates, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, “Weren’t on the same page” when playing together. He reportedly (and hilariously) had issues with current Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and reportedly game the Bulls an “ultimatum” on his presence in Chicago versus Hoiberg’s.
When Butler came to Minnesota last offseason, thus reuniting with Thibodeau, one would think that unity would be restored and Butler would do great things with the Timberwolves for seasons to come.
What happened instead was an injury-plagued 59 games, beef with new teammates and no real success. It has been reported at length, that Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins never got along. It has also been discussed that Butler and Karl Anthony Towns had beef and that Towns reportedly told the Timberwolves Front-Office that he couldn’t “co-exist” with Butler.
With the news yesterday (9/23) that the Wolves and KAT had agreed to a 5-year super-max extension worth $190 million, they have made it obvious that KAT is their priority and the newly 29-year-old Butler is on the outs.
It’s been a rare piece of news in Clippers history that a big-name player wants to join their team. Chris Paul coming to L.A. was a bit lucky and during his tenure with the Clips, they failed to get any other big name FA on the market. There was news that Kyrie Irving had the Clippers high on his trade wishlist before being traded to the Boston Celtics last summer.
Thus, hearing this news that Butler wants to force his way to the Clippers is exciting for fans of the beleaguered franchise. However, should the Clippers jump the gun and try to trade for Butler? Everyone might want to hold onto their horses for a few moments.
Wojnarowski reported that Butler’s interest in the Clippers firmly resides with the fact that the Clippers are going to have the ability to sign multiple big name FA’s next offseason with the $50+ million in cap space they can attain in 2019. L.A. has already made it clear that their focus resides in obtaining Kawhi Leonard next offseason as it should be. Leonard wants to be in L.A. and reportedly doesn’t want to play with Lebron James and the Lakers. That leaves the Clips as the only viable option.
However, with the drama that has surrounded Butler in his career, who’s so sure that big name free-agents would want to pair with him? If he already couldn’t get along with a former MVP (Rose), young superstar (KAT) and multiple coaches, what’s going to change. It seems as though Butler wants to be the focal point on whatever team he joins and with someone like Leonard potentially joining, that won’t happen. Butler has been a noted team chemistry killer and seems to have an ego the size of Texas. For a team that would need another star to contend in the crowded Western Conference, Butler will be the wrong linchpin to start this trend.
Speaking of trends, It has been written at length about the Clippers mentality going into the 2018-19 season. It seems as though they have a “win now, build for future” mold in place this season. They have a lot of talent, both young and old, and are in no position for a full tank. Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks to be the point guard of the future for L.A. and young guys like Jerome Robinson, Montrezl Harrell and others look to be franchise guys moving forward.
Obtaining Butler does move the Clippers focus firmly into the “win now” but at what cost will that bring for the future of the franchise? Butler is under contract until the summer of 2020. Is his risk-reward worth potentially tinkering with the future? The Clippers haven’t made any indication that no one is off the table in a trade. Does this mean Tobias Harris and SGA are tradable?
Twitter ideas have been sprouted about with Harris and SGA’s name involved as well as picks. These moves seem to be nearsighted as Harris is still only 26-years-old (3 years younger than Butler) and is coming off of a career year. SGA has yet to play a game in the league but all signs point to him being firmly entrenched in the Clips future. I think that these two names should be completely off the table in any talks. Harris will have a monster year in a contract season and SGA looks to be everything the Clippers need moving forward at the point guard spot and more.
A likely candidate I see as trade bait for the Timberwolves could be Danilo Gallinari. He has an unnecessarily large contract, is 30-years-old and an injury risk. However, if Gallo is moved, this most likely means that the Clippers 2019 first round pick is gone. This pick stays with the Clips if they don’t make the playoffs next season as the Boston Celtics own it due to the 2016 trade for Jeff Green. Once again, this Butler trade could impede the Clippers future, if made, more than likely.
Butler is a huge risk-reward given his contract, age and incidents on other teams. He would also be coming to L.A. without the guarantee of another star joining him, on a team that won’t contend this season. Given the drama that the Lob City era produced, could they be reproducing this with Butler? He has now forced his way out of two different teams, both of whom were in the playoffs the year he demanded trades. Butler will have to wait out the 2018-19 year more than likely as a non-successful one. Does this sour him to the Clippers idea after one year? If moves aren’t made in his two seasons, at 31, is he already gone? This move involves too many unanswered questions and not enough solid answers.
At the end of the day, Jimmy Butler’s presence does improve the Clippers roster. However, if Minnesota is asking for too much then it shouldn’t be worth it. Trading away a future, whether that’s young players or picks, seems to be very nearsighted for a near 30-year-old with ego and personnel issues. If Butler buys in to what the Clippers can offer and Jerry West, Lawrence Frank and Steve Ballmer make a good deal then it could be a huge positive and a great move. However right now, there are too many what-if’s involved with this deal and too much riding on the future of the Clippers to not give it some extra thought.