Earlier this week, when a report emerged that Jimmy Butler was planning to meet with Timberwovles brass in what was described as a “last-ditch” effort to salvage their frayed relationship, it caught just about everyone off guard. Granted, the locker room turmoil between him and Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t exactly a secret, but nobody would’ve guessed it had already deteriorated to the point that it was beyond repair.
But that was apparently the case as Butler went into that summit with coach/GM Tom Thibodeau and other executives and demanded a trade. The Timberwolves likely assumed that they had more time to mend relationships, given that Butler isn’t set to become a free agent until next summer.
Yet, a new report points to the possibility that Butler’s contract status was more of an overriding factor in his trade request than any lingering interpersonal drama, however real or imagined.
Via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic:
There were reports of friction between Butler, Towns and Wiggins, but sources say that is not the main reason Butler has decided to move on. Butler was hoping for a renegotiation and extension of his contract this summer, one that would have raised his salary for 2018-19 to $30 million and added another four years and $145 million on to that. But the Timberwolves would have had to cut an enormous amount of salary to pull that off and deemed it unreasonable if they wanted to stay competitive in the near term.
It’s an interesting predicament for the Wolves, given the restructuring of his contract this summer would have been, as Krawczynski notes, extremely difficult given their cap situation. It could be that Butler knew this, and making that request gives him the cover of trying to make it work in Minnesota before eventually asking out. In any case, a request has been made and now the clock is ticking on Minnesota to make a deal happen with training camp looming in less than a week.
The real answer for why Butler requested his trade is likely some combination of both personal and financial reasons, not to mention a third factor that has to do with the type of market Butler wants to play in. When making his request, Butler also handed the front office a list of his preferred landing spots: the Knicks, the Nets, and the Clippers. In other words, New York or L.A.
But not the Lakers. Butler apparently has no interest in being LeBron’s sidekick, which is certainly his prerogative. The Knicks, however, are starting to make a few ripples again as a possible free agent destination, with rampant speculation that both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (among others) may consider New York an option when they hit the market next summer.
In any case, the Timberwolves face some uncertainty in terms of ensuring they secure the best deal, of which there is no shortage of opportunities floating around out there. The question is whether they can effectively capitalize on it.