Roundtable: Jimmy Butler requests trade from Timberwolves

Jimmy Butler
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

As we near the start of training camp, media day and ultimately a new NBA season, the basketball world was hit with one last offseason shockwave, as Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler has formally requested a trade from the team. Butler’s wishlist includes the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers, so for this roundtable, several of our writers to convene to discuss what went wrong in Minny, which team should go hardest in trying to acquire Butler and where he’ll start the season. Our participants are:

1. Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves after just one season with the team. What do you think went wrong in his lone season?

Allan: Lack of chemistry. I think people overlook the immaturity and work ethic of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Immaturity may be a harsh word but when the season ends and Karl-Anthony Towns goes on Instagram saying that he hadn’t touched a basketball two months after the season ended that’s going to tick a player like Butler off. He was brought there to try and compete for a championship with coach Tom Thibodeau and the players around him didn’t seem to have that mindset.

John-Baptiste: For starters, I’d rule out the coaching. He was very familiar with Tom Thibodeau’s style from his days in Chicago. My educated guess would be chemistry with his teammates. Numerous stories popped up over the course of last season about rifts between him and Andrew Wiggins as well as Karl-Anthony Towns. Maybe they didn’t work hard enough in his eyes. Or maybe he didn’t like the direction the franchise was heading in. Who knows? But it was obviously enough to want out!

King: Chemistry with the younger players on the team. Butler criticized the work ethic of the younger players on this team in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins as Felix pointed out. Once that occurred, I feel like that the bond between those three could never be repaired and given the youth and potential that is still untapped with Wiggins and Towns, the organization would lean towards protecting those two over Butler. Also, it would make sense that where Butler is at now in his career, he will demand a lot out of his teammates and expect to compete late into the postseason which it didn’t look like was going to occur or be the case in his time in Minnesota.

Anderson: The younger players weren’t workers as much as Jimmy Butler, which brought bad chemistry to the team. When he joined his former coach, Tom Thibodeau, in Minnesota, and a lot of young players’ work ethic wasn’t the same as Butlers, one of whom was Andrew Wiggins, frustrations amassed. Butler feels as if he deserves a roster that wants to win and is able to shoulder a heavy workload. He wants to play for a successful organization that he can help boost to contender status, but Minnesota wasn’t the place for him with that.

Kirkland: Jimmy Butler is the type of guy who needs to be on a team with a more veteran mindset. We kept hearing chirping about his issues with some of the younger guys on the team. This isn’t new because he and Dwayne Wade questioned the heart of their teammates while in Chicago. I don’t think his mentality fits in with the rest of that group and their culture.

2. According to Woj, Butler’s wishlist includes the Nets, Knicks, and Clippers: Which team do you think should go all out in trying to acquire Butler?

Allan: Easily the Knicks because of who else would eventually come to play with him. There are rumors that he and Kyrie Irving want to play with each other, so that could really kickstart an opportunity to build a championship contender there. Knicks All-Star Kristaps Porzingis has been ready to join forces with a star and trade opportunities like this don’t come every day so they should make the biggest push.

John-Baptiste: The Knicks. Not because I’m a homer, but because they are the only team out of the three to have a 2018 All-Star on their roster. Granted he is currently rehabbing a torn ACL, but why go to a situation you’re unsure of when the Knicks already have Kristaps Porzingis under contract? The Knicks will also have cap space to grab another free agent in the summer of 2019. Porzingis, Butler and a third All-Star would be a good start to contending in the East.

King: According to the latest ‘Woj bomb’ Butler seems ‘determined’ to seek a trade to the Clippers and is intrigued with the idea of playing with another superstar, which is a shot to KAT but I’ll save that for a different day. For that to occur the Clippers would have to land said superstar via free-agency or through a trade, maybe a player like Kawhi Leonard, who sources say that his most likely destination will be the Clippers next season.

That being said, where he should go, I think it has to be the Clippers, as they do not have a franchise player on their current roster. The only thing that they have close to that is Tobias Harris and he is most likely to leave in free-agency following next season depending on what they do roster-wise. Outside of him they just have a bunch of role players like Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley that will be pushed to produce like big-time starters. If you are the Clippers, you go all out to land a player like Butler because as much as Los Angeles has been dominated with the headlines of the Lakers landing LeBron James, it would be interesting to see the fallout if these two marquee players in the NBA were both calling the Staples Center home next season.

Anderson: I would have to say the New York Knicks. The Knicks already have All-Star Kristaps Porzingis and Jimmy Butler needs someone like Porzingis that will put in the same, if not more, work when it comes to the game. Also, thinking about the 2019 free agency, the Knicks have a chance of landing Kyrie Irving or possibly Kawhi Leonard. If Butleforeseeses the future, he would be a great fit with the Knicks and two other All-Stars.

Kirkland: I think If the Timberwolves have their way he won’t be playing for any of those teams. Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard both are not in either of their “preferred” trade destinations. Neither the Nets, Knicks, nor Clippers have anything tangible outside of picks and depth to provide for Jimmy Butler. Butler is one of the most dependable players on both ends of the court in the NBA. The Timberwolves need to be seeking a star or budding star in return.

As for the other end, I don’t think any of these teams can afford to go all out trying to acquire Butler, who will be a free agent in 2019. Unless he pledges to sign an extension, the Clippers would be silly to gut their deep roster for a rental. The Knicks might finally have some young guys to be excited about and they get to develop in the absence of Kristaps Porzingis this year. The Brooklyn Nets JUST got their picks back for this upcoming summer and now have picks in both rounds through 2024. I think after the last decade they should consider holding on to their assets and building from within. Without a guarantee, cutting off your arm for a one-year rental is franchise self-sabotage.

3. How much of a factor do you think Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns played in Butler’s trade request?

Allan: A big factor. I think that Butler didn’t want to play with either one of them after he joined the team. Butler knows that his prime is only getting shorter so he wants to find players around him with a championship mindset. It didn’t seem like Wiggins and Towns shared that mindset with him.

John-Baptiste: Re: Question 1! They are likely the main reasons he’s willing to part ways with the franchise. Minnesota is invested in its young players, and because they’ll be there for a while, Butler likely wasn’t a fan of going on the ride with them. I’m not privy on all the details and issues they had with each other, but similar to the Kyrie fallout in Cleveland, it must’ve been bad enough.

King: To me it circles back to my response to Question 1. You have great players on the same team and three of them are at different points in their careers. Wiggins and Towns may feel that they can still focus on developing and getting better as players while they are still early in their playing days. With Butler being where he is now in his career, he is near or at his peak as a player and he feels that he needs to be spending these years competing for a championship where that just seemed unlikely for Butler to accomplish in Minnesota. Those three not seeing eye-to-eye on work-ethic and other on-court dealings ultimately led to this trade request.

Anderson: Wiggins and Towns must be a big part of the trade request. Butler wants a ring now in his career, but these guys don’t seem to have the same mindset. Not saying Wiggins or Towns did not want to win, but just on different pages as Butler with where they are in their careers.

Kirkland: I’m sure it was a decent chunk. Butler is a little older than those guys and may not want to wait for them to reach their maturity physically and mentally. You can’t clash with the other stars on the team and make things work

4. Jimmy Butler will start the season in a ____ uniform.

Allan: Los Angeles Clippers

John-Baptiste: Brooklyn Nets.

King: Los Angeles Clippers. Put it in permanent marker.

Anderson: Los Angeles Clippers

Kirkland: Minnesota Timberwolves

5. Why have star players (first Paul George and Kyrie, then Kawhi and now Butler), been so open about requesting trades recently?

Jimmy Butler
Where will Jimmy Butler end up? Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Allan: I think it’s a combination of things. It’s the thought of being a secondary player to eventually being the best player in a city, like Kyrie’s situation going from Cleveland to Boston. On the other hand, championship rings are (usually) what most players covet, and to be able to get out of their current scenario, a trade could be what sparks a superteam. These players realized soon after LeBron was able to have the power to create a superteam, that if they start clean in a new city and bring success, other players will follow.

John-Baptiste: There’s a simple answer to this: LeBron James. He’s changed the league in such an impactful way that players now realize the power is with them. They now want to control their own destiny’s, switching teams in the offseason and re-writing the narrative. These days if a player is not happy, they refuse to be stuck in a situation that isn’t beneficial for them on or off the court. With this new found power, anything is possible and players are okay with being as transparent as possible.

King: I believe it is due to the fact that the players that have requested trades recently are do not want to wait until free-agency to pursue different avenues in their career. With Kyrie, it was to be a leader of a team and not live in the shadows of LeBron. Paul George, Kawhi, and Butler requested a trade in an attempt to compete for a championship. When these players request a trade, it is telling the organization that they simply cannot wait until they become free agents to leave and are unhappy due to them being locked up with their current contract with their team.

By requesting a trade, it is a players way of getting out of their current situation and into one that best fits what they are seeking in their career. The only downfall with superstars requesting trades is the hefty price that they demand, but as the Oklahoma City/Indiana trade that included Victor Oladipo and George showed us, is that each organization seems to be rewarded for what they are letting go. The same motive for trading applies to the Kawhi and DeMar DeRozan trade where each acquired an elite level talent. We have yet to see who will benefit more in that deal but the expectation is that both will perform at an All-Star level to stick it to the organization that sent them out of town (especially DeRozan towards Toronto).

Anderson: As Baptiste said, it all began with LeBron James. The crazy decision where he ended up playing a big factor in these other All-Star trade requests. Players want to play with LeBron, or maybe some guys want to get away from him, but in Butler’s case, he just wants to win. There have been a lot of trade requests that we really haven’t seen before. With Paul George re-signing with the Thunder, Kawhi Leonard, and DeMar DeRozan being traded for each other, and Kyrie still with the Celtics, the league will have an even crazier free agency in 2019 and new alliances will form around the league.

Kirkland: Player mobility is now a thing. Guys started to realize the farce of “loyalty” to the team. The best thing is that they all support each other. There aren’t a lot of players bashing guys who leave the team for a better opportunity. The players in the NBA truly are a unit and a strong community. This helps them withstand pressure and backlash from both fans and upper management when moves get made.



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