Throughout the Jimmy Butler trade discussions, the Timberwolves have reportedly held firm in their hopes of gaining a wing in return for their star player. Most of the talks and reports have centered around Miami or Houston, but biding their time throughout this process have been the Los Angeles Clippers.
Los Angeles was on Butler’s original three-team list, but there’s also that little issue that, well, Minnesota doesn’t have to abide by Butler’s wishes in any regard. Later reports have said that Miami is his preferred destination. This makes sense as Butler fits the Heat culture and has a friend there in Dwyane Wade, but nobody ever said that Butler wouldn’t be happy if he did end up in Los Angeles like he originally requested.
The issue for the Clippers, however, is their assets in a deal for Butler leave a lot to be desired. Their roster is 12 deep in rotation players and that’s fine for winning 38-40 games every year, but it also doesn’t give them a lot to offer in trades involving a superstar. In the case of Butler, they do have a potential asset to work with in Tobias Harris. The 6’8 forward can combo as a stretch big or a perimeter-oriented wing and has become a solid 3-point shooter over his career.
He reportedly turned down a contract offer over the summer with plans of cashing in after this offseason so he’s expecting a big season in Los Angeles. He’s a starting caliber player and one the Wolves would want if they wanted to make a deal with Los Angeles. The problem is that he’s reportedly not being offered.
According to multiple reporters at The Athletic, Harris has not been included in any offers so far.
But the Clippers have yet to offer Tobias Harris in any package, sources said. It is believed that the Wolves are looking at Harris to headline any potential Clippers deal, just like they are looking at Richardson to be the main cog in a deal with Miami.
It’s interesting that the Clippers, a franchise that clearly wants a star and has no desire to tank, wouldn’t be more involved in trade talks for Butler. Their current situation isn’t one that can compete for a title and they likely won’t be making the playoffs, either. They traded away Blake Griffin and let Deandre Jordan leave to re-tool everything. Jimmy Butler would jumpstart that process and get them back in a winning situation quickly. Logically, they should do everything they can to get Butler and that should mean including Harris in a deal.
That’s one way to look at it, but let’s take a different angle and try to figure out why the Clippers wouldn’t want to give up too much for Butler. They have tons of cap space coming up and will have the room to sign a star or two next offseason. Butler will apparently not be signing an extension with whoever trades for him. Even if he ends up in Miami, Butler will test the waters in free agency next summer. The Clippers, knowing all of this, can just let this season take its course and then re-convene with Butler in free agency. There they can offer him the most money and they don’t have to give up any assets in the process.
There’s a danger in taking that approach. Butler could be very happy with wherever he ends up and just immediately sign a new contract with his new team on July 1 before the Clippers even get a chance to speak with him. If the Clippers have a fear this could happen then they’ll need to get more involved in talks soon. But is Harris really such an asset to protect from trade talks when he himself could walk this summer? The Clippers could potentially try to offer Patrick Beverley, maybe find a way to take the Gorgui Dieng contract off Minnesota’s hands, and even get a third team involved so salary can work. Still, Harris really is the key in making any trade work.
When you consider how complicated any deal not involving Harris would get, then the Clippers biding their time and taking a risk in free agency makes sense. It’s just odd that they would take that risk when a chance to add a legitimate superstar is right in front of them.