Most would agree that the Celtics will have an exceptional team in 2018-19 but that they just aren’t at the level of the Golden State Warriors, particularly since Golden State added DeMarcus Cousins this summer. In this era of superstar one-ups-manship, the Celtics look to be one superstar player away from legitimately being able to take down the reigning champs. So without question, Celtics boss Danny Ainge is monitoring this Jimmy Butler situation closely.
Ainge has become a master at playing the waiting game when it comes to blockbuster trades. When the smoke clears around the NBA, Ainge is usually the one holding the most chips – ready to pounce. But the reason Ainge typically has so many cards is because he waits for the right player to make a move on. You can bet on where Butler will land right now at Sugar House!
The Celtics had the opportunity to trade for Butler himself just 15 months ago at the time of the 2017 NBA Draft, but rebuffed Chicago’s demand that they surrender the No. 3 overall pick – which wound up being Jayson Tatum. Ainge played that hand correctly for sure, making sure not to overpay for a player of Butler’s caliber. Butler is an All-Star level talent for sure, but he will never be regarded as a top 10 player in the league. Tatum, meanwhile, is already looking like he could reach those heights.
There are several reasons why the Celtics might be interested in Butler this time around, however. First is that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor wants to trade Butler ASAP, and second is that acquiring Butler would greatly please Kyrie Irving – who is set to become a free agent next summer.
Butler himself will be a free agent next summer, and all indications are that he will explore his options. In other words, Butler is being viewed as a one-year rental right now – which is greatly diminishing his price tag.
The Celtics could conceivably be in the mix for Butler without even having to give up one of their top three assets – Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the 2019 Sacramento Kings first round pick. Ainge seems to be holding out for a bigger fish than Butler (hint: Anthony Davis), but if the Celtics can get Butler for a song right now Ainge would not be shy about pulling the trigger. Essentially, Ainge could have his cake and eat it too.
Trading away Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart and either the future Grizzlies or Clippers first round pick that they own would absolutely put the Celtics in the conversation for landing Butler.
None of the teams Butler has said that he wants to go to – the Nets, Knicks or Clippers – have the amount of tradeable assets that the Celtics do. And it seems right now that Taylor wants quality players in return – not just picks.
So the Celtics will be in the mix … if they want to be.