It has been over a week now since Jimmy Butler made his trade request public, yet he is still on the Timberwolves roster. Fans are growing impatient, and it seems the players on the roster are as well.
There have been rumors and rumblings of Tom Thibodeau potentially slowing down the process on purpose in hopes of keeping Butler on the team and repairing the relationship.
This is probably partially true, since Thibs is as stubborn as it gets. I also don’t think that’s the only thing slowing this deal down. Yes, we are coming up on two weeks since the trade request, but that’s actually not long in comparison to similar situations in the past.
Specifically, let’s compare the Butler situation the recent Kyrie Irving situation. In 2017, when Irving requested to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers, it took the Cavs roughly two weeks to honor this request and find a deal that made sense for them (in their minds, at least). It takes time to listen to offers, negotiate, and find something that actually makes sense for the team.
The one luxury that Cleveland had in the Irving situation that the Timberwolves do not have is the timing. The Irving situation took place over the summer, which is obviously much better for the team than having to deal with that drama right before and into training camp.
Similarly, it took significantly longer for the Spurs to find a deal for Kawhi Leonard. They ultimately dealt him to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan despite Toronto not being Leonard’s preferred destination.
All this is meant to say that even while it’s inconvenient to have to deal with this now, it’s imperative that the Wolves take the appropriate amount of time to get something of value in return for Butler. Nobody wants to see this drag into the start of the regular season, but it’s okay to wait and let teams bid against each other. Nobody wants to see this all come and go and only have Eric Gordon to show for it.
It is absolutely possible that waiting wouldn’t necessarily work out in the sense that Minnesota is not guaranteed to net a better return than they could get today. Maybe more teams will back out of the sweepstakes as we get closer to the regular season. It definitely is a tad risky to play chicken with these other teams, and we don’t really know for sure what’s actually been offered thus far.
Alternatively, it is just as risky, if not more, to simply accept a deal of similar value as the Rockets offer centered around Gordon just to get a deal done. That’s the kind of package that likely doesn’t help the long-term direction of the franchise.
The front office has to work to find something better than that, and it sounds like they are since Thibs/Layden allegedly asked Philadelphia for Ben Simmons (good effort guys). The question then becomes: what is realistic, and what is acceptable for Minnesota? It seems highly unlikely that the return will net a combination of established players, a promising young player, or high draft pick.
Whoever comes to Minnesota in any given deal almost assuredly needs to be a wing player, unless Thibs wants to role with Derrick Rose starting at the two all year long. The hope should be to get one of those, or a guy that semi-fits in more than one of those categories.
Josh Richardson is probably a best case scenario right now, and that would be a great haul given the market for a disgruntled star. On a lower level, something centered around one of the Nets guard/wing players would probably be better than the Rockets deal for the long-term.
Minnesota may have to look outside of the list of preferred destinations by Jimmy, and they should. They have no reason to honor his preferences. You have to wonder what a team like Toronto would be willing to give up for a player of Butler’s caliber.
Washington is another team outside of Jimmy’s preferred list that could be intriguing. Would they be willing to part with Otto Porter? Probably not, but what about Kelly Oubre plus a pick? That isn’t great, but it isn’t horrible. (Side note: can we imagine that locker room from past seasons, plus Dwight Howard AND Jimmy Butler? That’s the type of chaos I can root for.)
There are several other teams throughout the league who would be able to top this reported Rockets offer. Hopefully, Minnesota works diligently and patiently to find that offer.