Jimmy Butler trade request: How Nets, Knicks, Clippers could acquire Wolves' unhappy star
The four-time All-Star reportedly wants out out Minnesota, so here's what could happen next
Jimmy Butler does not want to work for the Minnesota Timberwolves anymore, reports say, and he has apparently given the front office a of where he'd like to go. The clubs in contention: The Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers.
This means it's time for some speculation! How much should the Wolves expect to receive for a 29-year-old who will want to sign an enormous contract next summer, even if that 29-year-old is? What trade packages from Brooklyn, New York and Los Angeles are actually realistic?
Our staff has ideas.
Trade 1: Brooklyn Nets
Nets receive: Jimmy Butler
If your first reaction to this is that the Timberwolves are getting fleeced, remember how little leverage they have. The season is about to start, Butler will be a free agent next July and it seems unlikely that there will be much of a bidding war for this particular 29-year-old All-Star when the three franchises on his list have the cap space to sign him outright next summer. Given that guys like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving will also be on the market, one should not even assume that Butler is any of these teams' No. 1 target.
From the Timberwolves' perspective, the 22-year-old Russell is an appealing player because he's on the same developmental track as Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. He also happens to be close friends with Towns. Yes, this might mean trading Jeff Teague, but trading Butler should make the front office consider doing that anyway. Teague is 30, and if Butler isn't in the picture anymore, Minnesota is better off focusing on building something sustainable rather than trying to win immediately.
Hollis-Jefferson, 23, also fits into that plan. He is a versatile defender and an excellent midrange shooter, and while he does not space the floor to the 3-point line, he has proven he can play power forward and he provides a lot of intangibles that Thibodeau tends to appreciate. Faried is included mostly to make the salaries match — he could provide some energy and rebounding this season or the Wolves could try to flip his expiring contract before the trade deadline.
For Brooklyn, the loss of Russell would be acceptable for a number of reasons: He has not lived up to his No. 2 pick potential, Spencer Dinwiddie can more-than-capably start at point guard and the team might want to be in the Irving business next summer anyway. Hollis-Jefferson has been a solid part of the Nets' program for the past three seasons, but the opportunity to add a player of Butler's caliber is rare and his presence could lead to another star taking the franchise seriously in free agency. While there is risk involved in placing a big bet on someone who has played as many minutes as Butler has, this is a genuine superstar who could help the team turn the page from culture-building to real competitiveness. -- James Herbert
Trade 2: New York Knicks
Knicks receive: Jimmy Butler
So, one of the teams Butler would apparently be OK with being traded to is the Knicks. It may seem a bit surprising at first, because, well, they aren't very good at basketball as currently constructed. However, it's a big market with plenty of cap space, and a team with Butler, Kristaps Porzingis and potentially another star could be very good at basketball if it comes to pass.
But what could a potential Timberwolves-Knicks deal look like? It seems a given that the Wolves would push for any deal to include either Frank Ntilikina or Kevin Knox, while at the same time the Knicks would be super hesitant to include either of their past two first-round picks.The thing is, the Wolves don't really have too much leverage here considering that Butler has requested a trade and it's now in their best interest to move him as soon as possible.
Whether or not Butler is willing to commit to signing with the Knicks next summer could change their calculation, but let's work off the assumption that the Knicks would refuse to include Ntilikina or Knox. A potential package that does work under those guidelines would be Hardaway, Thomas and a first-round pick.
Hardaway and Thomas are not stars by any means, but they're pretty solid players and would offer the Wolves a chance to remain somewhat competitive. A first-round pick, meanwhile, seems only fair for the Knicks to include in order to avoid dealing either of their prized youngsters. -- Jack Maloney
Trade 3: Los Angeles Clippers
Clippers receive: Jimmy Butler
The Wolves are going to need someone to slide right into the small forward spot vacated by Butler, and Harris is a solid option. He's improved every season since he's been in the league, including averaging 19.3 points and 6.0 rebounds after coming over to the Clippers in January's Blake Griffin deal. He's also been on four teams in seven seasons, so he knows how to fit into a new dynamic. Beverley will add much-needed defense to the Wolves (ranked 22nd last season in defensive efficiency), who could then look to shop Teague or Tyus Jones for another wing.
Both Harris and Beverley are on expiring contracts, which gives the Wolves flexibility for next summer, but it also means that they'll need a future asset in the deal to ensure they don't come up empty-handed. Since the Clippers owe their 2019 first-round draft pick to Boston, they could throw in Robinson, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who was the No. 13 pick in June's draft. You're never going to get equal value for a disgruntled superstar, but this deal could help keep the Wolves relevant in the short term while delivering them a long-term asset as well.
For the Clippers, this would be a huge win. They've committed to staying relevant in the post-Lob City era instead of bottoming out, and this would get them right back into the Western Conference conversation. Trading away Harris would allow Danilo Gallinari to move back to his more natural four position, while the departure of Beverley would open up more minutes for Milos Teodosic and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, whom the Clippers are excited about. And if Butler agrees to sign with the Clippers long-term, which he is reportedly open to, he could attract more stars to L.A.'s "other" team ... Kawhi Leonard, anyone? -- Colin Ward-Henninger
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