The Minnesota Timberwolves have been a ticking time bomb for a while now. Many expected some sort of fallout to happen at some point, albeit probably a time other than the middle of September. However, the NBA is ridiculous, and our boy Shams dropped this today:
Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski. Butler has given Minnesota a list of one-to-three teams with whom he's open to signing extension, in anticipation of trade.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 19, 2018
Right away, the Raptors were pointed to as a potential target given the fact that there are very few teams in the market for a star on a one-year contract. With only a handful of elite teams in the league, the majority of the NBA has no use for a player like Butler unless they can get a long-term commitment from him. But for the Raptors, a top-tier team going all-in this year, another one-year contract isn’t the worst of ideas. After all, we have one year of Kawhi, so why not make it as special as possible?
However, much like Kawhi himself, Butler is not making it easy on the team he wishes to leave. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, he has a small list of preferred destinations where he may potentially re-sign:
Minnesota's Jimmy Butler has three preferred destinations for a trade, league sources tell ESPN: The Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks. Those three teams have max cap space to sign Butler as a free agent in July.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 19, 2018
Of course, with this knowledge, the Nets, Clippers, and Knicks will view Butler as much more than a rental in trades and thus be willing to offer more than the average team. It doesn’t mean re-signing him is only a guarantee for only those three teams, but it will certainly impact negotiations.
With this being said, what is a deal the Raptors could put together to land Butler? Whether he would be a pure rental or a candidate to sign long-term is a story for another time, but the Raptors have put all their chips into the middle and may be inclined to continue to swing for the fences for the 2018-19 season for the right price.
With that in mind, let’s look at some potential trades.
Serge Ibaka, Danny Green and Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby for Jimmy Butler and Gorgui Dieng
We start with perhaps the best option if Masai Ujiri is serious about making a deal. Involving Siakam or Anunoby, two players the Spurs couldn’t con Masai out of even for Kawhi Leonard could get the ball rolling on a deal if the Wolves want to acquire young talent. OG or Pascal are likely two of the best young assets that may be on the board in a deal for Butler. The Wolves may also want to attach Dieng’s bad deal onto this and Serge Ibaka could be used to make the numbers match.
So, would the Raptors think about including one of their two top young players? It’s hard to tell. Trading one of the two could be a serious hit to the team’s future, given both players are set to key parts of the team’s rebuild if Kawhi and in this case Butler were to leave next summer. The team, for good reason, is incredibly high on both Siakam and Anunoby and parting with them wouldn’t be easy, but maybe worth it to acquire a third All-Star. Lowry/Kawhi/Butler is a ridiculous big three and I can’t believe I’m even typing this as a possibility.
Swapping Siakam/OG in this deal with a player like Delon Wright would make the deal of much better value for the Raptors, but it’s hard to see the Wolves moving on from Butler for Delon as the “centerpiece” when there are teams out there like the Nets and Clippers with some assurance that they have a solid shot at getting several years of Butler.
Kyle Lowry and Malachai Richardson for Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson
This deal is basically Lowry for Butler straight up with one year of Taj Gibson to make numbers work. The Wolves, who had the longest playoff drought in the NBA before finally making it last year, may want to stay as competitive as they can with this deal. Acquiring Lowry, still an All-Star caliber player, may be the way to do that.
From a Raptors perspective, this would be incredibly shocking and likely not the best route. Butler is, when used correctly, a marginal upgrade over Kyle, and we already went through the drama of trading our franchise guy. Do we really want to do the exact same thing to his partner? As a hard-nosed defender and terrific three-point shooter, Lowry will play a huge role in the success of the Kawhi-led Raptors, acting as a better fit alongside Leonard than DeRozan ever would have been.
Long story short, this deal probably isn’t worth it.
Norman Powell, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, Danny Green and protected 2021 first for Jimmy Butler and Gorgui Dieng
Maybe the Wolves are big Norm Powell fans? Maybe a plethora of half-decent rotation pieces (à la the Chris Paul trade) is exactly what they want to help them continue making the playoffs? Maybe there is no market for an incredibly unhappy Butler and they’ll take anything they can get before media day?
This deal is a long shot but would be solid for the Raptors given the little risk involved.
The Butler saga is going to be a very interesting one, as unlike the Spurs who had all summer to deal Kawhi, the Wolves could be pressured to make a deal by the aforementioned media day deadline. After his June trade request went public, I for one scoffed at articles like these detailing how the Raptors could swing a deal for an unhappy Kawhi, but we saw how that turned out. We’ll see what happens here.