Yesterday afternoon, NBA insider Shams Charania reported that star forward Jimmy Butler had requested to be traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Butler listed the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Los Angeles Clippers as his desired destinations. However, this shouldn’t deter the Toronto Raptors from pursuing Butler. The Boston Celtics weren’t on Kyrie Irving’s preferred landing-spots last summer. Unless Butler and Irving are hell-bent on joining forces in 2019, the Toronto Raptors offer an ideal situation it to the four-time All-star.
Winning can outweigh the other factors that guide a star player’s happiness with their franchise. Plus, Toronto is clearly a great place to play. Having played for Chicago and Minnesota, Jimmy is clearly used to the cold. The Raptors are already one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference and widely viewed as a top-five team in the NBA. Adding Butler obviously makes them even better than an already top-notch team.
Butler doesn’t have a no-trade clause. The Wolves, much like the San Antonio Spurs with Kawhi Leonard earlier this summer, can trade him wherever they wish. Because Jimmy only has one year left on his contract, teams that Butler does not wish to join won’t offer their best packages for him. Remember, Boston isn’t sure if Irving will re-sign with the Celtics. They went into last season knowing they could make him happy with a combination of an excellent culture and winning a lot of games and now hope for the best. Toronto can do the same with Butler, only with one less year to do so.
The Raptors should pursue Jimmy. So what are they offering? Packaging Serge Ibaka to match salaries makes sense. Toronto will likely have to throw in their 2021 first-round pick to convince Minnesota to take on an extra year of Ibaka. The question then becomes which young asset would the Raptors include to sweeten the deal? OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam? OG Might be the most desirable right now and the one Toronto would prefer to trade if acquiring Butler. You can never have too many wings, and Anunoby has shown a lot of promise, but when you add two of the top-12 players in the league to your team and they both play on the wing, they’re going to soak up most of those minutes. Trading OG might be easier to swallow because of this, and that Danny Green, CJ Miles, Delon Wright and possibly Norman Powell need some run too.
If the rumors are true that Karl-Anthony Towns won’t sign his rookie-extension until Jimmy Butler is off of the team, on top of the fact that Butler has requested to be traded, the Wolves do not have a ton of leverage in their negotiations. Unless the Knicks, Nets or Clippers are desperate to lock up Butler now, Toronto’s package is likely to be as good of an offer as any. Whether Toronto wants to raise the stakes in the amount of risk they are taking on in 2019 is unknown. Maybe they like OG too much to make this deal. Maybe Masai Ujiri is happy with the team as it is. Maybe Minnesota asks for too much. Maybe Butler gets sent to Orlando as a middle finger to Jimmy. Regardless, the Raptors should pursue Butler, but will they?