Jimmy Butler wants out of Minnesota.
When Sean Marks accepted the general manager position for the Brooklyn Nets, the thought of an NBA All-Star actually considering playing there was laughable. The thought of this was worth at least a few jokes in the local Barber Shop.
The Nets, after all, were a team long on losing and short on hope.
Two-and-a-half years later, the jokes are officially over.
Butler wants a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He wants it done ahead of the 2018-2019 regular season. The 29-year old star has listed the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Nets as preferred destinations.
The timing of Butler’s request is comical. Minnesota’s Media Day is this Monday. Training camp opens on Tuesday. How’s that for short notice?
The common denominator for all three teams on Butler’s list is they’re all in a position to meet his financial terms. He’d be able to secure a five-year, maximum contract that could be worth $190 million in the summer.
Butler’s first preference, according to further reports, is the Clippers. They’re a big-market team that project to have plenty of salary cap space next summer to accommodate two max-contracts. The same can be said for the Knicks and Nets, both teams also project to be prime real estate for next summer’s NBA free agent class.
But the fact that the Nets are even on Butler’s radar deserves a round of applause. It’s a testament to the massive undertaking by Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson.
Brooklyn Has What Butler Wants
Brooklyn’s roster is now full of youth, talent, and players who exemplify the team slogan, “Brooklyn Grit”.
Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris found their respective grooves in Brooklyn. Youngsters Caris LeVert and Jarret Allen wouldn’t be Nets if not for the strategic approach Marks took to add them through the draft.
LeVert and Allen are building blocks and, like Dinwiddie and Harris, also fan favorites. Everyone loves a good underdog story, especially in New York City. The Nets have a roster full of underdogs.
What they don’t have yet, however, is a superstar. Jimmy Butler knows this.
Butler fits many of the qualities the Nets look for in their players. He plays with an edge, is a hard-nosed defender, and a workaholic.
He put in the work and went from late-round draft pick to a four-time All-Star. The Nets would be potentially getting a highly-driven, motivated talent ready to win with like-minded teammates.
And that’s where the dilemma comes in for Brooklyn.
Because it’s not that Butler wants to come to Brooklyn, but instead it’s why he wants to leave Minnesota, which should give the Nets a long moment of pause.
There’s Plenty To Consider
Butler wants to win, he also wants to get paid. Reports circulated in the offseason he became frustrated with the nonchalant attitudes of Minnesota teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler, while in Chicago, also wasn’t thrilled with the style of play the Bulls were running under new head coach Fred Hoiberg. It was different from the intense style of his predecessor, Tom Thibodeau.
Thibodeau, now with Minnesota, eventually traded multiple lottery picks for Butler. Now, a year later, Butler is asking him for a trade.
Marks and the Nets have to ask themselves if attempting to trade for Butler now is worth it?
Any deal the Nets make for Butler arguably needs to include some combination of LeVert, Allen, Dinwiddie, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson along with a draft pick or two.
Brooklyn would get a perennial All-Star swingman. Butler’s averaged at least 20 points per game in each of the last four seasons. That type of player will come at a heavy price, no team is just going to trade him away for a box of peanuts.
The Nets, thanks to Marks, are finally in possession of their own first-round pick again. They haven’t had one of their own since 2014, the product of arguably the worst trade in NBA history which helped rebuild the Boston Celtics.
Butler’s a star, but he’s also 29 years old, with a questionable knee. He’s logged a lot of minutes in his career and is asking for a five-year deal. The last two years of that deal would absorb gigantic space in Brooklyn’s salary cap. There’s a lot to consider before deciding to change course in their long-term plans.
A Moment of Pause
Is it worth trading young assets, and tapping back into a box of your own draft picks, for a player who can possibly be signed in the summer during free agency? Butler holds a player option on his contract next season, that’s his leverage card.
The Nets still have a long way to go before turning the corner to becoming a playoff team again. It’s not as steep a hill to climb anymore, thanks to Marks and Atkinson. They’re no longer a laughingstock, they’re now a potential destination.
Marks has expertly maneuvered the Nets from a roster absent of talent to one stocked with young developing pieces under manageable contracts. They’re primed to make a big splash in the free agent class of 2019. Another move may even reveal itself before then.
An NBA All-Star having legitimate interest in joining the Nets is something the team should feel good about. Maybe they even get him without sacrificing all the work they’ve put in over the last two-and-a-half years to put an end to being the jokes of the town.
But until such a scenario presents itself, there’s more than enough reason for Brooklyn to pump their brakes on saying yes to a trade for Jimmy Butler.