So much for that slow start to 2018 free agency...
LeBron James has agreed to 4-year, $154M deal with Lakers, Klutch Sports says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 2, 2018
Less than 24 hours into the “official” start of NBA Free Agency, LeBron James announced his latest decision, this time via a simple press release:
And just like that, LeBron James officially became a Los Angeles Laker. News of “The King” taking his talents to West Beach was about as shocking as Derrick Rose re-signing with the Wolves, but the official announcement still sent massive shock waves through the league nonetheless.
With the league’s best player joining the league’s best conference, the competition for a title (let alone a Western Conference playoff spot) just got that much more difficult. LeBron’s move west means that there are now seven active NBA players with MVP’s, all of whom are in the Western Conference (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Steph Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, and Derrick Rose).
Clearly this latest transaction has enormous ramifications for the entire league, not just the Wolves. But with LeBron joining the franchise formerly known as the Minneapolis Lakers, things in the 612 could once again get dicey real quick, depending on how the current regime decides to react to the LeBron news.
As reported over the weekend by Marc Stein, the Wolves current offseason plan includes offering a contract extension to Jimmy Butler once he becomes eligible on July 9. Valued at four-years, $110 million, the extension would lock Butler into Minnesota for the remainder of his prime; however, as Jon Krawczynski quickly pointed out, that offer was really more of a one-way street:
There is zero indication Jimmy Butler will take this extension. Would be giving up WAY too much money. https://t.co/y3LfArjLDL— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) July 1, 2018
Not signing this latest offer wouldn’t directly translate into Butler outright leaving, but without his official John Hancock, the Wolves would be at the mercy of the 28-year old from Tomball, Texas deciding he might want a change of scenery next summer. Considering the mutual bond between player (Butler) and coach (Thibodeau), is losing Jimmy truly a possibility?
With this latest news from LeBron, the arms race is once again amplified as star players look to align themselves with other star players in an effort to (somehow) take down the Golden State Warriors. While LeBron was the first domino to fall, the Lakers clearly have their eyes set on much larger aspirations than simply “LeBron and the kids,” meaning other superstar players may already be in their crosshairs.
We’ve already heard the rumblings surrounding Kawhi Leonard, but while that situation plays itself out, there will undoubtedly be more star players whose names get attached to Los Angeles – primarily those who become free agents next summer (Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, and yes – Jimmy Butler).
It’s common knowledge throughout the league that Butler loves playing for Tom Thibodeau, and their success together has been well documented. However, if the Wolves endure another up-and-down, frustrating season like they experienced last year, a plethora of questions will emerge, most of them tied to the player/coach combo. These questions include:
- Will the tight relationship between Thibs and Jimmy be enough to secure Butler’s stay in Minnesota long-term?
- If Jimmy stays, do the Wolves have enough secondary pieces to surround him and Towns in order to build a quality contender in the West?
- If the writing eventually is on the wall that Butler wants out, will the President of Basketball Operations have the foresight to move Butler before the deadline in order to get some sort of assets in return?
- If Butler does bolt, does that mean Tom Thibodeau bounces as well (either by choice or by force)?
- How does Andrew Wiggins play into this? Will he be dumped in an effort to satisfy Jimmy and surround him with more veteran players ready to contend now?
- If the Wolves do indeed lose Butler, do they scrap the current plan for contention and immediately pivot to an expedited rebuild that focuses solely on the talents of Towns?
- Does any of this really matter or are we all just floating along in some sick computer simulation?
While that last question may be a tad over-exaggerated, the remaining questions are real issues that now face the Wolves as they navigate forward in the new Western Conference. With the Lakers loading up on one-year deals (Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, etc.), their strategy of being major players in next year’s free agency is becoming abundantly clear. With only one year left on Butler’s deal, it will be imperative that his beloved Head Coach pulls the right strings in order to also become his beloved President of Basketball Operations.
The LeBron news was indeed exciting, and created another chapter in the free agency frenzy that has recently consumed the NBA. But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The King of the NBA has taken his action, and now it’s time for the other 29 franchises to react, including the Minnesota Timberwolves.
UPDATE: Full transparency, I wrote this piece Monday night after work, while enjoying a fresh Breakside IPA (my Portland readers know what’s up), and finished it four minutes before this happened:
Free agent DeMarcus Cousins has agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors, league sources tell Yahoo.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 3, 2018
So in reality, maybe that last bullet point isn’t as over-exaggerated as I thought. The greatest franchise of the last decade adds another All-Star, and (arguably) the greatest franchise in NBA history adds (arguably) the greatest player in NBA history. Hoo-hum.
Hey, at least Anthony Tolliver can shoot threes! *face palm*
UPDATE #2: After updating this piece Tuesday morning with the Boogie news, this “story” was retweeted onto my Twitter timeline:
Woof. A few quick thoughts:
- Jimmy Butler was never signing a contract extension this summer anyway, as mentioned earlier.
- This “story” strongly resembles the day after Thanksgiving, when people take a bunch of leftover (not fresh) food items, warm them up, and call them a “home cooked meal.”
- I get frustrated every single time my fiancé eats the last dessert in the freezer, but I’m still with her after nine years. Not all roads immediately lead to disaster.
- Finally, as someone unfamiliar with Joe Crowley’s work (the author of this piece), I will fall back on the opinion of a much more trusted basketball source, Mr. Britt Robson:
If anyone believes Joe Cowley is an agenda-free, objective reporter, then they are a lousy judge of character. Ignore the bullshit. Butler, Thibs, Towns, Wiggins are together for the 2018-19 season. Everyone knows the rubber meets the road a year from now. Many Q answered by then— brittrobson (@brittrobson) July 3, 2018
So much for the “offseason,” huh?