Jimmy Butler trade rumors: Wolves telling teams they intend to keep their All-Star forward

The Minnesota Timberwolves finally made it back to the playoffs last season, losing to the Houston Rockets in the first round in their first appearance since 2004. Despite the quick exit, everyone in Minnesota expected the team to build on that performance with bigger goals in mind for this season. 

All that changed on Wednesday, when Jimmy Butler reportedly requested a trade out of Minnesota. His reported first choices are the Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, though the Wolves could always try to trade him elsewhere. Of course, they aren't required to trade him, and it seems that head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau is holding out. 

According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski, other teams who have called the Wolves to talk about a trade have been turned down. At the moment, the Wolves are apparently telling teams they plan to keep Butler. Via ESPN:

Rival executives lobbing calls to Minnesota's front office on the possibility of trading for four-time All-Star forward Jimmy Butler are getting their inquiries rebuffed, league sources told ESPN.

In the aftermath of Butler's trade request this week, Minnesota executives are telling teams that Butler's an elite player and that the franchise intends to keep him, league sources said.

Wojnarowski's report comes just a few days after Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported that Thibodeau has "zero interest" in dealing Butler only to get stuck coaching a rebuilding team. In fact, sources told Deveney the Wolves coach would actually consider walking away from the team as a result. Via Sporting News:

According to multiple league sources, coach Tom Thibodeau has no intention of letting Butler go for young, rebuilding-type pieces. Thibodeau, hotly pursued as a coaching free agent after leaving Chicago in 2015, went to Minnesota because he thought the team would be ready to contend quickly.

Butler, acquired last summer in a trade with the Bulls, had become part of that thought process. Thibodeau has zero interest in taking a step back with Minnesota, even, according to sources, if it means he ultimately parts ways with the team.  

"No one expects Tom to coach a 25-win or even 35-win team," one front-office executive told Sporting News. "Even if he has to agree to dissolve the contract, they'd do that before they go and trade Butler for draft picks."

It will be quite interesting to see what happens here, as it seems unlikely a team would be willing to part with a comparable player considering Butler will be a free agent next summer and the Wolves have next to no leverage. Likewise, it seems a long shot that Thibodeau would actually dissolve his contract and forego all of the money he's due over the next three years -- $24M, to be exact. 

And this is where Thibodeau maintaining both coaching and personnel decisions gets tricky. He's not interested in coaching a rebuilding team, but the franchise is probably better off by getting the best package of young players and picks in this deal, rather than a few solid veterans that can help them stay somewhat relevant. 

There will likely have to be a decision made one way or the other before the season begins, but with Thibs having so much control, this situation could get dragged out for a while. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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