Will Jimmy Butler End Up in New York?

by Taylor Smith
on September 20, 2018

The NBA is wild. Now more than ever, the NBA’s star players are in charge. Every year, it feels as though we get a handful of high-profile players telling their teams that they want to be traded. While not every star player to have changed teams in recent years as made such a demand, just look at some of the players who have changed teams via trade since the end of the 2017-18 season: Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, D’Angelo Russell, and so on. Several other stars (LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward) have switched teams as free agents.

One of the high-profile players to have been dealt over the last year or so is Jimmy Butler. Butler spent the first several seasons of his career with the Chicago Bulls before being dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves ahead of last season. Butler was instrumental in helping the Wolves reach the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004. Last year, Butler averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in leading the Wolves to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

However, things seem to have soured between Butler and the franchise since then. On Tuesday, Butler reportedly met with Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau in order to discuss his future with the franchise. Butler is set to enter the final year of his deal, and he apparently wanted to give Thibodeau a message. Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Butler told Thibodeau during the meeting that he wants to be traded ahead of the upcoming season. Considering training camp starts next week and the regular season gets underway in a month, he’s sure not giving the Wolves a whole lot of time here.

The Timberwolves ultimately have the power here, as Butler is still under contract for this season. However, it sure sounds as though he has no plans of re-signing in Minnesota next summer, so it would be in the team’s best interests to deal him now while he still carries some trade value. Players have almost no power in this, but Butler also reportedly told the Timberwolves that he would be open to signing an extension with the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Clippers if dealt to one of those teams…Interesting!
Will Butler be traded before the season begins? If so, where?

Based on the 3 teams on his wish list, it’s pretty clear that Butler wants to play in a huge market. He also wants to play for a franchise that would be willing to sign him to the 5-year max extension worth $190 million next summer. ESPN additionally reported that Butler’s wish list may expand based on which other teams come in and make competitive offers for him. If Butler signs a deal as a free agent, the biggest offer he’s eligible to sign is a 4-year pact that will pay him $141 million.

Where will Butler play to begin the 2018-19 season? You can bet on these things, of course. Below are the betting odds:

  • Minnesota Timberwolves +150
  • Brooklyn Nets +300
  • Los Angeles Clippers +350
  • New York Knicks +375
  • Philadelphia 76ers +800
  • Los Angeles Lakers +900
  • Boston Celtics +1100
  • Golden State Warriors +3300

Minnesota topping this list has more to do with the timing than anything else. As mentioned previously, the Wolves have about a month to trade Butler before the season begins. We know trades can come together quickly, but you can bet Minnesota is going to want to be diligent about fielding trade offers for a player of Butler’s 2-way caliber. They’re not just going to pull the trigger on the first offer that comes down.

There’s a decent chance Butler awkwardly suits up with the Wolves to begin the regular season, but I’m willing to bet the team gets a deal done before then. Butler’s trade value is only going to continue to diminish the longer the Wolves wait, so they should get a deal done as soon as they can in order to get the most in return. Thibodeau is reportedly reluctant to trade him, but the writing is on the wall. I can’t imagine Butler starting the season with the Wolves, so pass on Minnesota as a betting option at +150.

Big Apple?

2 of the 3 teams on Butler’s wish list play their home games in the United States’ largest media market. The Knicks are one of the league’s marquee franchises despite the fact that their overall team success pales in comparison to several other teams around the league. The allure of playing in New York hasn’t attracted many big names to the Knicks in recent years, but Butler seems at least willing to consider the idea.

At an event earlier this week, Knicks executive Steve Mills said that he wants to “build the team the right way.” He went on to say that they would not seriously consider trading for any player that they think they could just sign outright as a free agent a little later. Would the Knicks really pass on the chance to trade for Butler in order to risk waiting on him in free agency?

That is a gambit we have seen fail a couple of times recently. The Los Angeles Lakers decided against trading for Paul George last summer because they were assured that he would just sign as a free agent in the summer of 2018. PG13 ended up signing an extension to stay with the Thunder, so the decision to wait blew up in the Lakers’ face. The Lakers took a similar approach when deciding whether to trade for Kawhi Leonard. We’ll see how that works out.

What do the Knicks have to offer the Wolves in a trade? Butler will make about $20 million next season, so matching that salary won’t be easy. New York could offer someone like Enes Kanter or Tim Hardaway Jr., but why would the Wolves want either of them? Kanter is redundant with Karl-Anthony Towns already in Minnesota, while Hardaway is an overpaid chucker. Joakim Noah can’t play anymore, while Courtney Lee is getting into his mid-30s.

Kristaps Porzingis isn’t going anywhere, which really leaves only Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina as the only players that could tempt the Wolves to trade Butler. I have a hard time believing the Knicks would want to part ways with both, but a deal sending Knox and Ntilikina (along with Noah’s salary to make it work) for Butler and Tyus Jones works money-wise. That would be a great trade for Minnesota, but I doubt the Knicks pull the trigger. I’ll pass on betting on the Knicks at +375 to land Butler within the next month.

The Nets don’t have a star like Porzingis, but they do have a number of intriguing youngsters populating the roster. Jarrett Allen, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are all serviceable young pieces. One would imagine the Timberwolves would have interest in some of them.

Allen is likely the most appealing trade chip in the Nets’ war chest, but, again, the Wolves already have a center in Towns. LeVert has battled injury issues, while Hollis-Jefferson remains a work-in-progress. The jury is out on whether Russell will live up to his star potential. He’s already changed teams once.

Would a package of LeVert, Hollis-Jefferson and Kenneth Faried (as salary filler) be enough to entice the Wolves? The Timberwolves’ hands could be tied with Butler’s value diminishing by the day, and that’s really not a bad haul overall. Doing that trade would still keep Minnesota somewhat competitive in the West next season.

Of the two New York-based squads, I think the Nets are a far more realistic betting option than the Knicks as Butler’s potential home to begin this season. However, Brooklyn is rebuilding and I’m not convinced they have a whole lot of interest in parting ways with young pieces in order to bring in a 30-year-old due for a huge payday. I still like Brooklyn at +300 better than New York at +375, but I’m not enthralled by either betting option.

La La Land?

The Clippers are listed at +350 to lure Butler by the time the regular season begins in mid-October. The Clips have undergone a drastic roster overhaul in just the last year or so. In that span, the likes of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and others have left.

The Clips aren’t expected to seriously contend for a playoff spot next season, but they do seem to be on the radar of some high-profile soon-to-be free agents. Leonard has also reportedly shown interest in joining the Clippers at some point. Trading for Butler prior to signing Kawhi as a free agent would instantly put the Clippers back on the map.

A package of Tobias Harris, Patrick Beverley and Wesley Johnson for Butler and Jones does work from a money perspective. Harris would give the Wolves an excellent offensive 26-year-old forward, while Beverley would become an elite backup option at point guard behind Jeff Teague. Johnson is merely salary filler on an expiring deal.

Would the Clippers be willing to trade for Butler and then commit big money to him until he hits his mid-30s? That’s a huge if for any prospective Butler suitor, especially considering Thibodeau has been running him into the ground for years. During the Griffin-CP3 era the Clippers dealt with nonstop injuries, so they may be understandably hesitant to go all-in on a guy that comes with as many risks as Butler.

I do think the Clippers are the most logical trade partner for the Wolves, though, so I love the betting value that comes with LAC at +300. We know the Clips want to lure stars to compete with LeBron James’ Lakers, and adding a player of Butler’s caliber would be a solid start.

Of the teams on Jimmy’s list, I think the Clippers are the team you should be betting on.

Dark Horses

The odds cited above list teams like the Celtics, Warriors, Lakers and Sixers as teams that could fight their way into the Butler sweepstakes. Frankly, I can’t see any of them being a realistic landing spot, but there is one team that stands out above the rest. That team would be the Lakers.

The Lakers are in L.A., which obviously checks the “big market” box. It’s a bit curious that the Lakers didn’t appear on Butler’s initial wish list, but perhaps there are reasons for that. Maybe he doesn’t want to serve as LeBron’s sidekick? Maybe he’d prefer a team like the Clippers without an established superstar already in place?

The Lakers balked at trading some of their young pieces in order to try and get Kawhi from the Spurs, so it’s hard to imagine the team suddenly being willing to part ways with those same guys to get an arguably lesser, older player in Butler. I’m sure LeBron would love to team up with Jimmy Butler, but the Lakers aren’t going to trade a guy like Brandon Ingram to get him. If Butler eventually does wind up in a Laker uniform, he will have signed as a free agent rather than arrive via trade.

The 76ers, Celtics and Warriors are set with what they have. Philly is a potential option among those 3, but I think there’s a zero percent chance he winds up in Boston or Golden State to start the season.

I’ll rank my favorite Butler destinations as follows:

  1. Los Angeles Clippers +350
  2. Brooklyn Nets +300
  3. New York Knicks +375
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves +150
  5. Los Angeles Lakers +900
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, but he’s willing to take one for the team on that front every now and then.

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