Jimmy Butler’s recent meeting with Minnesota Timberwolves’ brass set the NBA rumor-mill ablaze over the weekend, and for good reason. Trades and gossip are a hot commodity in the basketball world, as are all-star wings in their prime.
Whether the Wolves intend to trade Butler has yet to be determined. But even with a sniff of blood in the water, opportunistic sharks are quick to follow. While some clubs, like the Lakers for example, would be wise to wait until this summer to sign the impending free agent, other teams would be wise to swing for the fences as soon as possible.
The Sixers had a disappointing summer, and as we’ve previously discussed, are a risk to disappoint or regress in the coming season. Bringing in a talented wing to play alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid would give Philly the type of loaded core necessary for going the distance in the NBA.
In bringing in Butler, Philly would take pressure off Simmons to float the team’s offense, while also providing much needed injury insurance for Embiid. The Sixers would see major improvements on both offense and defense by replacing the aging JJ Reddick with the four-time All-Star Butler.
The Sixers have a number of veterans on tradeable contracts, plus intriguing assets like Dario Saric or future first-rounders. Philly could put together a package that may intrigue Minnesota, especially if Butler seems destined to walk away from the team this summer.
Philadelphia will be pretty good this year, especially as Simmons and Embiid grow. But if the team wants to fast-forward the Process and truly contend, bringing aboard a player like Butler is a worthy gamble.
Like the Sixers, the Wizards are another Eastern Conference team that figures to be a little too lacking in talent to really compete in 2018-19. If Washington could somehow reel in Butler, it would immediately find itself among the best of the best in the East.
John Wall, Bradley Bealand Butler would be a horrifying proposition for opposing defenses. This is especially true if Dwight Howard somehow finds his footing in Washington. This would give the Wizards a big improvement on the wing, although that would likely mean tackling the difficult task of trading away Otto Porter Jr’s monster contract.
To that end, the Wizards don’t have the same flexibility or trove of assets as a team like Philly. Absorbing Butler’s $20.5 million contract would take some creativity from the Washington front office. Beal and Wall aren’t getting any younger, however, and this chapter of Wizards basketball is at risk of getting a little stale without a major move.
San Antonio Spurs
The Sixers and Wizards don’t quite have enough star power to compete in the East. So, what does a team like the Spurs do when trying to stay competitive in the loaded West?
The Kawhi Leonard fiasco changed everything for head coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. Pop is likely just a few years from retirement. Will he really ride off into the sunset on the backs of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan?
At first glance, San Antonio isn’t an obvious trade partner in this instance. On paper, DeRozan and Butler would be a bit redundant. Likewise, the Spurs might struggle to put together a reasonable, enticing package.
Switchy wings are a rare and lethal resource in today’s NBA. And San Antonio is among the most proactive organization’s in the league. It would be a bit of a Hail Mary play for the Spurs, but a deserving and worthy one for coach Popovich.
Portland Trail Blazers
Another Western Conference team that qualifies as “good not great” would be the Portland Trail Blazers. The club employs two immensely talented guards in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but the rest of the roster is a bit of an expensive dumpster fire.
Portland needs to consolidate its bloated roster one way or another. That could mean a fire-sale in February, especially if the Blazers aren’t particularly competitive. Instead, the Blazers ought to pick up the phone and give Minnesota a call.
All of this hinges on what the Timberwolves are thinking. If the team believes Butler will walk, trading him obviously makes sense. From there, however, Minnesota needs to decide whether it wants to rebuild and take on future assets or simply reload and target serviceable role players to support Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Portland has some interesting players but has much more in the way of established veterans as opposed to promising talent or extra draft picks.
Maybe the Blazers can pique the Wolves’ interest with Moe Harkless or Evan Turner. Otherwise. Portland would need to get busy and try to flip players like Meyers Leonard for picks. A Lillard, McCollum, Butler Big Three would be tremendous fun both on and off the court.
The Phoenix Suns
There’s a few other teams that could try and trade for Butler to help their existing stars. The Pacers, the Grizzlies, and the Pelicans would all look pretty scary if they somehow landed the Marquette-product.
The Phoenix Suns, however, are a different story. This club is quite a few moves away from even reaching the playoffs.
The Suns just went all-in on Devin Booker, (hand surgery notwithstanding), which mean they have five years to build something special. However, the team could accelerate its growth considerably by trading for established talent.
There’s risk here, of course. Butler is in his prime and wants to contend. He likely wouldn’t want to be part of a rebuilding team and has in the past been quick to voice displeasure. The Suns would be betting on themselves similar to the type of gamble Toronto made in bringing in Leonard.
Maybe Butler and the Timberwolves can patch up their reported problems. Surely an infusion of former teammates who peaked five years ago is a step in the right direction. If not, trading for Butler’s expiring contract would be a worthy risk for any team looking to take a step forward soon.
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