The spectacle that Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler put on at Timberwolves practice last week indicates that there is a full-blown mess in Minnesota. The rest of the NBA knows that Timberwolves GM Scott Layden, and more specifically owner Glen Taylor, is desperate to trade Butler in the coming days. It doesn’t look like a trade is going to happen before the Timberwolves’ season starts on Wednesday against San Antonio but Minnesota management will surely look to avoid a season-long disaster, particularly one that watches Butler walk out the door for nothing in return.
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That said, the reason why Butler hasn’t been traded yet is because the entire NBA is low-balling Layden. If, say, Celtics boss Danny Ainge wanted to trade for Butler tomorrow – he could have him. A straight-up Jaylen Brown for Butler trade would seal the deal.
But there are several reasons why a Celtics trade for Butler is unlikely. The first is money. The Celtics still have Brown on his rookie contract for a relative bargain, and Butler not only costs more right now but will cost a fortune to retain this summer.
The second reason a Butler trade to Boston is unlikely is because the Celtics already reportedly turned down a Butler for Brown trade, indirectly. In fact, in back-to-back years around NBA Draft time the Celtics shut down Bulls trade talks centered around Butler. Chicago was asking for the third overall pick in both 2016 and 2017 but Ainge would not budge. The Celtics like Butler for sure, but don’t view him as a max contract player.
One team to keep an eye on, however, as this situation continues to play out is the Raptors. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is a realist who knows full well that his team, as presently constructed, is not good enough to beat the Celtics in a seven game series to reach their first ever NBA Finals. Ujiri is going all-in on this year, and should be taken seriously for the rest of this season when it comes to potential blockbuster trades.
Kyle Lowry is the main player that the Raptors would ship out in any big trade this season, as he is their biggest chip. Adding to the speculation that Lowry could be on the move is that he is currently disgruntled with Raptors management. Lowry did not speak with new star Kawhi Leonard until the first day of training camp and he has had a distant relationship with Ujiri since the Demar DeRozan trade.
Leonard and Butler teaming together in respective contract years could be enough to elevate them over the Celtics in the East. It’s would be a giant roll of the dice, but the Raptors are clearly in the gambling business right about now.