Jimmy Butler, who reportedly requested a trade, might not part ways with the Timberwolves after all, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. With things somewhat timultuous for the Timberwolves, The Crossover's staff took out time from its busy schedule to consider teams that might provide Butler with a better environment than Minnesota, where he was at odds with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Rohan Nadkarni: Brooklyn Nets
I guess I backed myself into a corner with this pick after writing glowingly about Sean Marks earlier this week. Here’s what I’ll say: Brooklyn offers Butler flexibility. If he’s traded there, the Nets could potentially have room to sign two more max-ish guys next summer. If Jimmy trusts his recruiting skills, he can build something close to a superteam in Brooklyn. Why the Nets over the Knicks? Both have been the butt of jokes over the last few years, but the Knicks are still the Knicks, and the specter of James Dolan hanging over everything is reason enough to avoid that franchise. Also, Brooklyn is awesome! Jimmy can be my neighbor and I’ll show him the best spots to eat jerk chicken and take thirsty IG rooftop pics.
In all seriousness, Brooklyn gives you the advantages of playing in New York without the risk that comes with the Knicks. I understand the allure of L.A.—especially after spending time in the midwest—but why go West and deal with LeBron, Harden and KD when the East could offer a slightly easier path? The Celtics and Sixers are no joke, but maybe Butler can convince Kyrie to come play with him. Brooklyn fans, it’s time to make sure your photoshop skills are up to task.
Jake Fischer: New York Knicks
The whispers surrounding Jimmy Butler’s interest in joining forces with Kyrie Irving in Madison Square Garden are more than headline-worthy scuttle. It’s a substantial 2019 talking point in league circles, and one many believe to have strong validity. Butler has risen to stardom with a blue-collar mentality, blending a hard-nosed defensive prowess with a desire to produce offensively in big moments. It falls directly in line with cliche, but there truly is no crowd that appreciates such a confluence like the one roaring high above Penn Station. The Knicks’ newfound braintrust has publicly preached the franchise will no longer mortgage future draft assets to attain players they can seemingly sign in free agency. If that word holds true, and Butler and Minnesota ultimately determine an immediate departure is necessary, that may rule out New York for Butler’s immediate services.
Should Butler reach the free agent market next summer, the Knicks would provide a tantalizing young core, an equally tough-minded coach in David Fizdale, and the cap room to absorb Butler plus another max-salary free agent. A frontcourt of Jimmy Butler, Kevin Knox and Kristaps Porzingis would be incredibly intriguing on both ends of the floor, with length, shooting (should Knox’s Summer League performance hold true) and off-the-dribble playmaking at all three positions. That’s versatility we’ve only come to see within the modern game’s elite teams. After all, Butler has proven a willingness to lead inexperienced squads before. He, of course, green-lit his 2017 trade to Minnesota, and scheduled a legitimate meeting with the Sixers in 2015 before ultimately re-signing in Chicago.
Jeremy Woo: L.A. Clippers
While it surely helps to have Lee Jenkins on staff, the Clippers are reported to be Butler is preferred landing spot, offering a combination of big city glitz, California weather and most importantly, tons of upcoming cap space. The Clippers continue hunting for a new star to anchor the franchise after trading Blake Griffin and watching DeAndre Jordan leave for Dallas, and while they might be able to sign Butler in free agency next summer, the potential splash of a preseason trade could be enough to make them pull the trigger now.
Minnesota tends to favor win-now type pieces, which suggests prized rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could remain, and if L.A. plays its cards right, it could sign two max-level players in a year’s time and in essence, let Butler recruit a running mate. Of course, it’s still hard to win in the West and LeBron is also occupying real estate in the staples center, but the thought of a blank slate and two stars to anchor the restart makes for a compelling pitch. The question is if the Clippers want to make Butler one of those guys, and given his age, ball dominant game and track record of running into lacquer room controversy, it’s at least fair to wonder about the potential pitfalls of a huge contract that would take him into his 30s. Regardless, the simple allure of keeping unattached stars away from the Lakers and becoming a destination might be incentive enough to go for it now.
Michael Shapiro: L.A. Lakers
LeBron James has stressed patience with the Lakers’ roster thus far, claiming that he will be patient with Los Angeles’s cast of kids and oddball vets. But will that really hold as the season continues? The King isn’t one for patience, especially since his return to Cleveland. The Cavaliers shipped Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love in Aug. 2014, and overhauled its roster last February. James could be calling for All-Star backup sooner than later.
The Lakers have plenty of assets for a Butler deal. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka would be rightfully hesitant to ship Brandon Ingram, but a cold start from Lonzo Ball could have his Lakers future in doubt. Barring that, a package headlined by Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart could intrigue Minnesota. The Timberwolves dealt Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the pick that became Lauri Markkanen in July 2017 for Butler, and nice collection of assets presently without a headliner. And that was with another year of team control left on Butler’s contract.
The Lakers brass could very well opt to wait until free agency and swing at a loaded class of free agents once again. With room for a max free-agent spot on the cap sheet, Los Angeles could have its cake and eat it too, keeping its young core together around James while adding through free agency. But Los Angeles has already seen Paul George pass on joining James, and none of the Durant, Irving and Leonard trio look to be sure bets. If James gets antsy early, Los Angeles’s second star could come sooner than next summer.