The NBA offseason is always full of craziness. Even with training camp just days away, that craziness is still ongoing.
Today, it came in the form of a star trade request, as Jimmy Butler has officially requested to be moved from the Minnesota Timberwolves. A few days ago, reports came out that Butler - who can opt out of his contract next summer - was unsure about his future with the Wolves.
After meeting with Minnesota’s head coach and president of basketball operations, Tom Thibodeau, Butler requested a trade, and named three destinations he would prefer: The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Brooklyn Nets.
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
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
The significance of those three teams is that they all have the cap space necessary to extend Butler, while also adding reinforcements in free agency.
Butler giving the Wolves preferred destinations doesn’t mean Minnesota will trade him to one of those spots. Kyrie Irving did the same thing last year with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they sent him to the Boston Celtics, who were not on his list. However, the fact that he openly is willing to extend with the listed squads means that those teams may be more likely to offer a significant package.
Then again, all three of those teams can afford to sign him outright in free agency next summer, and may instead gamble on that likelihood, especially since other free agents (notably Kawhi Leonard) will also be available.
There is also the chance that Butler doesn’t get traded at all. Minnesota may keep him, and force him to play out the year, hoping they can patch things over.
Tom Thibodeau has been resistant to the idea of trading Butler, we're told. With media day on Monday and training camp set to being on Tuesday, the clock is ticking.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) September 19, 2018
It’s not entirely clear why Butler - who was traded to the Wolves last offseason - wants out of the organization. He had a great relationship with Thibodeau when the two were paired up with the Chicago Bulls, and one of the league’s best young players is in Minnesota, in the form of Karl-Anthony Towns.
There have been rumors that Butler does not get along well with Towns or Minnesota’s other young number one draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, but the reports today suggest that isn’t a large factor.
I'm told Jimmy Butler's decision had very little if anything to do with Towns and Wiggins. More to do with contractual matters.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) September 19, 2018
One can only wonder what the contractual matters are. Butler is one of the league’s elite players, offering high-volume, high-efficiency offense, and outstanding perimeter defense. He is, in almost anyone’s book, one of the ten greatest players in the league, and still only 29. If Minnesota is unable to meet his contractual desires (as Chicago previously was), then that’s an enormous failure on their behalf.
In the meantime, this is unlikely to do much for the Golden State Warriors, at least in the short term. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Butler is traded to a contending team, so for the immediate future, he isn’t likely to impact Golden State much.