Would a Jimmy Butler Trade Move the Needle for the Clippers?

Jimmy Butler, who reportedly wants out of Minnesota, could land with the Clippers. Would a trade work for both sides? The Open Floor podcast discusses.
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Jimmy Butler, who is reportedly no longer interested in playing for the Timberwolves, has a list of preferred destinations, according to ESPN.com. One surprise name at the top of that list was the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that is in the playoff hunt but lacking superstars following the departures of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Would the Clippers be a good landing spot for Butler? If a potential trade worth it for the Clippers? Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver discuss on the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast

(Listen to the latest Open Floor Podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

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Andrew Sharp: We got a bunch of questions on whether Jimmy Butler would make sense in L.A. I don’t know, if they’re smart, do you really want to commit a lot of money to mid-30s Jimmy Butler? Because the track record for guys who have played with Thibs and survived that, it’s not great for guys in their 30s. So it’s a real concern. 

Ben Golliver: You know, I hear you. I mean, it would be awful ironic if we give them all this praise for getting out of the Blake Griffin deal and then they just go right back and spend all that money on a Butler deal that could look exactly the same in 12 months. 

Sharp: Right? I mean, if they are as smart as we think they are—and I do think they’re smart—I don’t know if Jimmy Butler is the move. And it’s going to be really interesting. Because they could be desperate too. And Steve Balmer could just be as thirsty as other people say the Clippers are, and that’s a possibility. 

Golliver: We know they’re very smart because they hired Lee Jenkins. OK? Clearly the first step of building a dynasty. But I think the Clippers are going to, in the not-too-distant future, find themselves with an identity crisis. Like, ‘Who the heck are we?’ Right? They already played the underdog team last year.  … But they didn’t really make the playoffs. So they’re left just empty-handed. How long can you do that going forward?

Would you rather build around Jimmy Butler with his concerns or Tobias Harris being Tobias Harris. And you think, ‘Hey, we can trade for Jimmy, pennies on the dollar now. We do have to give him the big money, but we could potentially use him to try to compete for other free agents, put a team together where they are in the playoffs next season because Butler can kinda do what he did in Minnesota and kinda carry a team to like an 8-seed, right? And then potentially be big-time players next summer in free agency.'

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If I’m the Clippers, that sounds pretty close to a best-case scenario. Because you’re not going to get KD, you're not going to get a lot of these other guys. You can pray that you’re going to get Kawhi Leonard, but you have to have something to pitch to Kawhi Leonard. And if they miss the playoffs again this year, that pitch starts to get pretty weak, doesn’t it? That’s why I think either the Clippers or the Heat, for similar reasons, I would talk myself into doing it knowing the risks.

And here’s the other thing: If Butler comes and he gets injured again, this year, you don’t have to automatically give him that five-year max next summer, right? That’s still a negotiating point. And I think if you are trading for him on a discount right now, you don’t even have to have the handshake deal going forward. You just say, ‘OK, next summer we’ll sort that out and obviously we’ll take care of you if things go as planned.’

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Sharp: Yeah, I guess you’re right. And look, the Tobias Harris point is a really good one. And if the alternative is spending $120 or $130 million on Tobias Harris, then sure, maybe Jimmy Butler in his 30s makes more sense for the Clippers. It’s funny because I never really looked at his profile until I sat down to write about him last week. Looking at the games that he’s already missed over the last five years—he’s played 70 games once over the past five years—coupled with the money you’re going to have to give that dude. It’s thorny man.

And honestly this is a different situation than Kawhi hitting the open market or Kyrie on the trade block last year. Butler is a much bigger risk. And I think you’re already sort of seeing that with teams like the Nets and Knicks are saying, 'I don’t know if this is what we want to do.' It will be interesting to see how it ends up.