Where Will Jimmy Go?

Jimmy Butler.jpg
Credit: Zhong Zhi/Getty Images AsiaPac

Just when you think there should be no NBA drama, BAM, we have NBA drama.  In September, the NBA should be the equivalent to when you’re getting those last 15 minutes of sleep, soon ready for a day of work.  The streets are quiet, you can hear a pin drop, and within short order, the world will wake up around you.

Apparently Jimmy Butler did not get the memo, as he decided to hop in his car, drive 60 in a 35, sit on the horn of his car, and wake up the ENTIRE NBA.

And you know what, I could not be happier, because the NBA is at its best when there is maximum chaos, and Jimmy Butler just turned the chaos all the way up to 11!

This will not be a TMZ article.  I will not try to break down #fanswithsources who think Jimmy Butler slept with Karl-Anthony Towns girlfriend.  I will not break down the Wiggins family/Jimmy Butler/Stephen Jackson (!?) drama.  And poor Tom Thibodeau, who has already said if you make him trade fellow TimberBull Jimmy Butler, he will get up and leave (screw my contract! It’s not worth it if I LOSE a Bull).

I am here to breakdown where I think Butler will end up.  Like Kawhi Leonard, this will get resolved.  If it means Thibs has to leave, then he has to leave.  If keeping Butler risks losing Karl-Anthony Towns, you have to let him go.  Butler is a great player, but Towns is better, and is nowhere near his prime.  Butler has one year left on his contract anyway, and at 29, do you want to commit multiple years to a player that age at the risk of losing a 22-year-old unicorn?  I wouldn’t.

A few things to keep in mind.  Butler does have just one season left under contract (player option for 2019-2020).  Yes, so did Kawhi, but teams will have to keep in mind his flight risk in free agency.  Butler has been open to several different scenarios, and people seem convinced he’s going to be teaming up with Kyrie Irving in 2019; if you’re a team like Miami, and get Butler in the door, are you confident you’ll be able to keep him beyond this season? If you’re a team like the Knicks who can have amble cap space this offseason, do you sacrifice assets now, or do you wait until July to try to sign Butler? You could end up with a scenario like Carmelo Anthony, who probably would’ve signed with you anyway, or a situation like Paul George to the Lakers, where you thought he would sign with you, yet he enjoyed his one season in OKC enough that he decided to re-sign long term.

Multiple variables to consider, and I will keep them in mind below, as I consider a handful of teams who would be best-served going after Jimmy Butler.


 Philadelphia 76ers

elton brand
Credit: Chris Szagola/AP

Is this the move new GM Elton Brand makes to solidify the 76ers? A starting lineup of Ben Simmons-JJ Reddick-Jimmy Butler-Robert Covington-Joel Embiid would give Philly two elite perimeter defenders, a legit scorer to pair with Simmons play-making skills, and less pressure for Embiid to be the go-to guy.

It would be a lower price tag than what the Spurs were asking for in return for Kawhi Leonard (i.e. you keep Markelle Fultz), and it would erase any doubts about the ability of Philly being able to compete with Toronto and Boston.  They may not have the edge, but it would absolutely validate their legitimacy among those teams.

But is it worth it?

Philly is a team that is set to have an abundance of cap space in 2019, so is it worth trading an asset like Miami’s 2021 unprotected first or Zhaire Smith for one guaranteed year of Jimmy Butler?

He may improve the team in the short term, but like in Minnesota, he does not line up with the age of the core in place.  Butler, 29, would be playing alongside Joel Embiid (24), Ben Simmons (22), and Markelle Fultz (20).  It depends on how you see Butler raising your team’s ceiling in at least 2018-19, and for the next 2-3 seasons, against the likes of Boston and Toronto.

If I were Philly, I think you have enough to offer that is worth a one-year rental, but I would see the logic in not doing so.  I was convinced they would go after Kawhi Leonard, and I do not think a 2021 first (via MIA) is too much to give in order to climb up another level.

My biggest guess for the offseason: Kawhi Leonard will be traded to the 76ers for a package centering around Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric.

Me, via Hold My Drink Sports (June 26)

This is an ideal trade proposal from Philadelphia’s perspective:

PHI receives:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Justin Patton

MIN receives:

  • Wilson Chandler
  • Jerryd Bayless
  • Zhaire Smith
  • 2021 MIA first round pick

Minnesota receives two viable assets in Smith and the first, and someone in Chandler who can go into the starting lineup to keep Minnesota (somewhat) viable this season.  Not the best return, but for their situation, a viable one.  I make this offer if I am Philly.

Miami Heat

Butler Heat.jpg
Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

What better way to send off Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade than getting him a star to play with and help Miami both in the present and the future.

Butler and Wade are both Marquette alumni, and are very good friends off the court (or maybe not).  Having already played together for one season in Chicago, Wade knows what Butler has to offer, and I think he would cherish the opportunity to have another chance to play with him.

Then there’s Pat Riley.

As the czar of the Heat, Riley has pulled of big moves such as acquiring Shaq, LeBron, and Chris Bosh, moves that led to championships for the franchise.  He also acquired PG Goran Dragic in 2015 when it looked like he had zero viable assets; unfortunately, Chris Bosh’s health was in ultimate setback for the team that season.  He is known for big moves, and he has the pieces to make another move.

The Heat have an interesting roster composition with players such as Dion Waiters ($11.55 million), James Johnson ($14.651 million), and Josh Richardson ($9.3 million) to pair with young players such as Justice Winslow, Rodney McGruder, Bam Adebyao, and Derrick Jones Jr.

Mid-level salaries, interesting young assets, and a championship organization in NBA purgatory.  Desperation may seep through to make a big move.

Miami needs a star, and with no viable cap space until 2020, this may be the quickest avenue to acquire one.  This is what I would offer:

MIA receives:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Justin Patton

MIN receives:

  • Justice Winslow
  • Josh Richardson
  • Dion Waiters
  • 2022 second round pick

The money may not work here, but Miami has an odd grouping of salary; lets assume it does.  Minnesota gets two guards to fill the gap for Jimmy Butler, and a prospect(?) in Justice Winslow they can attempt to get something out of.  Miami gets a star, and having Butler in the room compensates for losing Richardson and Waiters (plus they have some internal options like Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder to fill-in).

I go all in for Butler if I am Miami, and that desperation may lead to the best offer Minnesota receives.

Los Angeles Clippers

Butler Clippers.jpg
Credit: Harry How/Getty Images North America

According to Woj, Jimmy Butler’s desire is to work his way to Los Angeles, and not with the team led by LeBron James.  By process of elimination, this means everyone’s new darling: the Los Angeles Clippers!

The Clippers, also tied to Kawhi Leonard, have a similar situation that Miami in terms of salaries on the books, but they have a different outlook.  With Lob City out the door, the team has said they want to rebuild on the fly.  They want to acquire young talent (i.e. Jerome Robinson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), but keep avenues open to maximum cap space in upcoming offseasons.  Clearly this is something that has been appealing to stars across the league, as the camps of Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard have expressed interest in the team (in Kawhi’s case, both before and after his trade to Toronto).

Maybe the Clippers are being used as a way to drive up offers across the league (a la Boston), or maybe there is genuine interest, but the Clippers are a case of “do we make this move now, or do we wait?” The Clippers do not have the same urgency as a Miami to make a move, but they also need to have a plan moving forward.  Having cap space for the sake of having cap space is great, but do you want to end up in a situation like Dallas where you hoard cap space, stars do not sign with you, and for years you end up left to dry? If Kawhi stays in Toronto, Butler goes to the Knicks, Durant and Kyrie stay, Klay goes to the Lakers, and you do not want Cousins, you may be left to extend Tobias Harris for a year or two as your premier move, and hoping 2020 ends up differently.

Do you have faith in getting free agents in the door without a star in place (i.e. having Blake Griffin as a recruiting chip for Chris Paul), or should you go for one now? If you go for Butler, does having him for a year convince him to stay, and another star to join him, or is he a flight risk?

If I am the Clippers, this is my proposal:

LAC receives:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Justin Patton

MIN receives:

  • Tobias Harris
  • Jerome Robinson
  • Wesley Johnson
  • 2021 first round pick

The Clippers would probably prefer to get Gallinari’s contract off the books here, but I do not see Minnesota wanting that honor.  This trade would allow Los Angeles to get Butler in the door for a season, and the Wolves to add Tobias Harris to help in the present, and Jerome Robinson to help in the future.

For Los Angeles, you would open up an additional $3.5 million if free agency for 2019, but as long as they have between $60 million and $65 million of cap space (which may require trading Lou Williams or Gallinari), they can get two max contract players.  That’s the goal.  I could see Los Angeles diving in and worrying about a Dallas scenario where the cap space results in nothing, but it’s 50/50.

Brooklyn Nets

Butler Nets.jpg
Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE

Ah yes, the Brooklyn Nets.  And folks, they are B-

Wait, what am I saying?

Brooklyn is on the precipice of having actual, legitimate, disposable cap space to spend on free agents for the first time since the 2011 offseason… when they were in New Jersey.  Since the end of 2012, the Nets have had zero cap space, and the only moves they have been able to make are in the form of exceptions, minimum contracts, and (horrible) trades.  Of course we know one trade that went well for Boston (although I promise you, one Nets fan has called me out on Twitter saying that trade was NOT an outright win for the Celtics), and short-sighted deals had Brooklyn in horrendous shape for multiple seasons.. but the end is near.

The Nets only have $43.7 million on their books for next season.  D’Angelo Russell will be a RFA, as will Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Spencer Dinwiddie. They are in… good shape.

I will give the Nets credit, they have done a good job the past few seasons making wise trades to accumulate talented players like Russell while taking on salary from other teams (a la Mozgov).  It has given them late firsts/seconds, and some infusion of roster upgrade when they literally had no possible path of one due to the way Billy King left the franchise.  Coach Kenny Atkinson has also done a good job developing players such as Jarrett Allen and Hollis-Jefferson.

But do they have anything to offer Minnesota?

Although Jimmy Butler has the Nets on his list of interested teams, I personally do not know if they can make a viable offer.  Brooklyn would have to offer Russell or Dinwiddie before Minnesota considered picking up the phone.  They have other salaries to add up to Butler’s cap number, but unless one of those two is being offered, a trade is not happening.

Knowing their history with draft picks, I think the Nets would be VERY reluctant to trade firsts for a risk like this.  Unless they were CERTAIN Kyrie Irving was signing with them if they got Butler, I would not risk losing Russell.

Lets assume the Nets have a classic Nets moment and jump the gun; this is the most I see them offering:

BKN receives:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Keita Bates Diop

MIN receives:

  • Spencer Dinwiddie
  • DeMarre Carroll
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Once again, I think the risk of trading Russell is to high.  I think Brooklyn needs to keep him, or else they risk opening 2019-2020 with only Spencer Dinwiddie, and no marquee free agent, which would set the team back.

This trade gives the Wolves an intriguing PG that lines up with Towns and Wiggins, a young chip in Hollis-Jefferson, and a wing in Carroll to fill in for Butler.  This is probably the worst trade return the Wolves can accept, but it’s as far as I would go if I were in the Nets shoes.

If they offer Russell (which I cannot envision)… then we can have a different discussion.

Brooklyn is in the discussion by default, and they will be through July, but its up to them to evaluate this risk.

New York Knicks

Credit: Chicago Sun-Times

The scenario that grinds my gears, because everyone is CONVINCED Butler and Irving are teaming up in 2019.  I have done my research on this topic, and Butler and Kyrie are close, but only Butler’s camp has said anything about a DESIRE to play with Kyrie… there is NOTHING to indicate that goes the other way.

Regardless, the team most tied to this hypothetical? The New York Knicks.

Chris Mannix thinks Kryie may want to go there, and JR Smith responded to an IG post saying chances Kyrie goes to the Knicks are “HIGH” (or maybe JR was).  I am still not buying it, but that’s for another day.

However, Butler has listed the Knicks as a team he wants to go to.

Just this week, the Knicks said they are done acting like the Knicks, meaning they won’t make short-sighted moves (a la trading for Carmelo Anthony at the 2011 NBA trade deadline when they most likely could have signed him in free agency and kept valuable assets)… but then this falls into their laps.  That’s like asking Bill Belichick to not trade back in the draft and take a player who lives and dies by football, but rather, stay and pick the more talented player, but one with a questionable desire to be great: IT AIN’T HAPPENING!

It is not in the nature of the Knicks to do this.  Just two years ago they gave Joakim Noah possibly the worst contract ever, and in 2017, Phil Jackson was literally fielding offers on franchise star Kristaps Porzingis… the power structure has changed, but has the culture?

Time will tell.

But if the Knicks want to get Butler right now, and give Kyrie Irving the chance to come to New York and play with his good friend, this is what they should offer Minnesota:

NYK receives:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Justin Patton

MIN receives:

  • Frank Ntilikina
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.
  • Noah Vonleh
  • 2019 top 10 protected first

You want Butler, and you want to open the door for Kyrie Irving, then go all-in.  This gives the Wolves a scoring guard to pair with Wiggins, but not supersede him as the top wing-scorer, a PG to develop, a developmental prospect in Vonleh, and a first.  It might be a lot from the perspective of the Knicks, but Butler takes over for Hardway, and it leaves the PG position open for Kyrie in 2019; it also clears salary in 2019.

Do the Knicks want to go for it and risk losing Butler in 2019, being left with only Porzingis (who will be a RFA), losing a future PG and first in the process? Well, I know the Knicks of old would…


Nick’s Rankings

If I had to rank where Jimmy Butler most likely gets traded to, it would go as follows:

  1. Miami Heat
  2. Los Angeles Clippers
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. New York Knicks
  5. Brooklyn Nets

If Butler is not traded, it is a massive mistake on the part of the Wolves.  Butler will leave, the Wolves will get nothing in return, they will have traded Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the pick that led to Lauri Markkanen for nothing (except Justin Patton I guess), and it may lead to Karl-Anthony Towns leaving by 2020… they have no choice.  They went for a homerun in Butler, but their culture was not fit for him (which is absolutely not on Butler).

Realize your mistake, get some sort of return, amend your relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns, and save your franchise.

Oh, and a word to the Boston Celtics (I know you read my pieces Danny Ainge): IT IS NOT WORTH IT!


Follow Nick on Twitter (@nick_collins14)