There has been smoke around this fire for a few weeks now, but it is has finally come to a head: Jimmy Butler has formally requested a trade away from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has given the team a list of three teams he would like to be traded to: the Knicks, Clippers and Nets. All three teams that would have the kind of cap space needed to give him a max contract.
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Thibodeau has said that he doesn’t want to trade away Butler, but that’s almost something that you have to say. If someone has no intention of re-signing and you risk losing them for nothing, a trade becomes inevitable. The Wolves gave up a lot to get him so losing him for nothing would be a death sentence for Thibodeau’s front office career. It might be regardless of how this plays out.
Butler’s choices of teams to be traded to are weird, to say the least. The Knicks and Nets have been outside of the playoffs for the past few years and while the rebuilding is going well, it doesn’t really make sense for those teams to trade for him. When they are ready to contend, Butler might be too old.
One team that I would look at that is not on his list is the Dallas Mavericks. They are eager to get back to the playoffs and adding Jimmy Butler to the lineup would certainly help towards that. A trade for Harrison Barnes works under the cap and he might be a better fit alongside Towns and Wiggins than Butler was. It certainly works out age-wise.
A less likely seeming deal would be the Miami Heat with Hassan Whiteside coming back, but why anyone would trade for Whiteside and that contract after the year he just had is beyond me. While a trade to the Thunder would be risky for OKC, they showed last season they are willing to bet big on themselves. Butler, Paul George and Russell Westbrook would be a scary big three and one of the best defensive teams in the league. Still, it’s easy to see in-fighting coming in to play there as well.
The deal that Butler wants, and the one that makes the most sense, is the Los Angeles Clippers. Trading for him would still leave them with max room for another star player next offseason and would get them in the playoffs this year. I just covered them in our win total previews and the it is natural. Maybe something like Tobias Harris and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for Butler. That fills the hole left by Butler pretty well, finds a potentially better fit and a young player with a ton of upside at a position of need.
The Clippers would have Butler and a team filled with role players who are more than willing to do the dirty work. Pair that squad with Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving or Klay Thompson, and that 2019-20 Clippers team looks like a title contender.
Not wasting any time, Bovada sportsbook put up the following odds: