Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge wants to nab Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler before Thursday’s trade deadline, and the “main sticking point” is not which draft pick (or picks) are included in the deal, but whether or not forward Jae Crowder will be involved, according to TNT’s David Aldridge, via CelticsHub’s Brian Robb.
“I think the Jimmy Butler stuff is real,” Aldridge said on NBA TV. “They have been trying to get Jimmy Butler. [Ainge] doesn’t want to give up Jae Crowder. That’s the main sticking point there and he doesn’t want to give up Jae Crowder in a deal and that’s the guy the Bulls are insisting on right now in any package for Butler.
“The picks will work themselves out. Boston has about 600 first-round picks in the next five years, so they’ll make it work. That part I’m not worried about. I think it really comes down to Crowder. In terms of real, tangible players, I think Danny would like to go into the playoffs with Smart, Bradley, Crowder defensively along with Butler, Horford, Thomas offensively. I think he feels like that’s he only way they’ll be able to compete with a team like Cleveland.
“Chicago, I think rightly, is saying, ‘If you want our best player, we’re not going to just do it for picks. We’re not going to take guys you aren’t going to keep on your roster. We want a guy that is going to be able to grow with us, along with one of those high picks.’ They want a top half of the lottery type of pick for Jimmy Butler, along with a starting established player under contract. I understand that from Chicago’s point of view.”
- Ainge should want to keep Crowder, and not only because he is on one of the most team-friendly contracts in the entire league (he will still be making $7.8 million in 2019-20). One of the many reasons that acquiring Butler is so appealing is the possibility of pairing him with Crowder, his former Marquette teammate, and letting them wreak havoc together defensively. That’s a ton of defensive intelligence, versatility and toughness between two players. Coach Brad Stevens could even throw them out there with rookie Jaylen Brown and just let the three similarly sized players switch everything.
- The Bulls should want to acquire Crowder, even if they’re rebuilding. Butler is a top-10 player in the midst of a career year, and he has two years left on what is now a significantly below-market-value contract. Is asking for a potential No. 1 overall pick plus a player of Crowder’s caliber a lot? Of course it is, but you should ask for a lot when you’re talking about surrendering a superstar. Chicago might not keep Crowder long-term if it is planning on tearing everything down, but he’d immediately become its best trade chip.
- As it gets closer to the deadline, could Ainge change his mind? As great as Crowder has been for Boston, he is nowhere close to the kind of offensive weapon that Butler is. In the playoffs, it is a necessity to have multiple playmakers, and Butler could take a ton of pressure off star guard Isaiah Thomas in that regard. I understand why the front office would prefer not to lose Crowder -- and might be more amenable to sending away Marcus Smart or Avery Bradley -- but it probably also doesn’t want to miss its chance to make a huge move.
- The Celtics and Bulls reportedly were close to a deal involving Butler last June. Chicago management was reportedly split on trading Butler, and that still appears to be the case. ESPN’s Marc Stein said on The Lowe Post podcast on Tuesday that Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf is against trading Butler “in any circumstance,” so even if Ainge does include Crowder in a proposal, there’s no guarantee anything gets done here.