Jimmy Butler Trade Request: Details, Explanation, and the Future of the Minnesota Timberwolves

Updated on September 24, 2018

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Coach Tom Thibodeau flew into Los Angeles to meet with star player Jimmy Butler. Butler requested to be traded, before the team’s media day, which is Monday the 24th of September. Butler has, reportedly, the most interest in the LA Clippers, but also included the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets in his request. Now it’s no secret Butler had issues with some of his teammates, but we’ll get to that later. The first question is why would such a competitive guy like Butler choose these three teams, none of which resemble anything close to playoff caliber teams. Here’s why.

Why the Clippers, Knicks and Nets?

The Clippers, Nets, and Knicks all have cap space for 2 max contracts next season. This means cap space for Butler, plus another max contract level player. Notice the locations as well, New York and Los Angeles. Big market, great cities, a lot going on, these are two locations that are typically thought to attract big-name players. Butler hopes to be in one of these two cities, NYC or LA, with a max contract of his own and one to recruit other all-stars with. Basically, if Butler’s plan works he will go into summer asking “Who wants to come play with me?” in an effort to form his own super-team contender. Before anyone doubts his plan take a look at a few of the 2019 NBA free agents; Kevin Durant, Kahwi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kemba Walker. Now before we speculate on who may join Butler, let’s look back at his time in Minnesota to; first, explain why Butler wants out and secondly, to figure out what kind of teammates Butler is looking for.

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Jimmy Butler with fellow 2019 NBA free agent Kahwi LeonardJimmy Butler with fellow 2019 NBA free agents Kevin Durant and DeAndre JordanJimmy Butler with fellow NBA 2019 free agent and friend, Kyrie Irving
Jimmy Butler with fellow 2019 NBA free agent Kahwi Leonard
Jimmy Butler with fellow 2019 NBA free agent Kahwi Leonard
Jimmy Butler with fellow 2019 NBA free agents Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan
Jimmy Butler with fellow 2019 NBA free agents Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan
Jimmy Butler with fellow NBA 2019 free agent and friend, Kyrie Irving
Jimmy Butler with fellow NBA 2019 free agent and friend, Kyrie Irving

I just want everyone to play hard

— Jimmy Butler

The State of the Minnesota Timberwolves Locker Room

The Minnesota Timberwolves locker room is divided in half, the “Thib's Guys,” and everyone else. The two main pieces of the “everyone else” side are Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns. Jimmy Butler, a “Thibs Guy,” has been vocal with his criticism of these two young players individually. The Butler shots began with post-game comments calling team performances “Soft” and stating that “I just want everyone to play hard.” These quotes are no surprise coming from a former Most Improved Player, who remains well known throughout the league for his outstanding work ethic. Butler is consistently amongst the league leaders in minutes per game and shows his will to win on the court. As his frustration with his teammates grew, Butler’s criticisms grew more specific.

This is a playoff game, those expression are examples of Butler's criticisms
This is a playoff game, those expression are examples of Butler's criticisms

Reports close to the team said Butler’s main problems with Wiggins revolved around “His work ethic and his approach on the defensive end of the floor.” This makes sense as Butler has openly commented on the importance of playing both ends of the floor in the past. Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times had reported Butler was “All fed up with the nonchalant attitudes of younger players” with specific emphasis on the play of Karl Anthony Towns. Now, these reports may seem over-critical considering the success of the two players criticized, but NBA Insider Stephan A. Smith may be able to clear this situation up for us.

An Insider's Opinion

In the interests of transparency, it is important not to mistake the following statements as Stephan A’s opinion on the player, these are just what he hears from his associates around the league. First, that Andrew Wiggins has been accused one of the guys who plays for the money, rather than the love of the game. Second, that Karl Anthony Towns has produced and shown great potential, but has been accused of being a guy that cares more about his stat line than the score of the game. Stephan A. Smith talked about this on ESPN morning show Get Up.

Butler's Plan

Now going back to, Who could Butler team up with next offseason? No matter if he’s traded or not, if he goes to a team he listed or not, Butler will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. This summer class is loaded I think all of the following players would be great fits next to Butler in any city: Kevin Durant, Kahwi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kemba Walker. Other restricted free agents include Kristaps Porzingis and Myles Turner. Rumors swirled about Kyrie and Butler teaming up, but it is impossible to speak with any certainty this far away. Not sure on the who or where, but I am confident Jimmy Butler will be joined by another (or more) stars for a 2019-2020 super team.

The Future For The Minnesota Timberwolves

Now for Minnesota, things start to get murky. Thibs said he has no interest in trading Butler “for now,” but I don’t think he’ll have much of a choice. If they keep Butler, that gives Karl Anthony Towns a reason to leave and then Butler can still leave in the summer, and Minnesota loses two stars for nothing. The Timberwolves will need to trade Jimmy and hope they can get an asset that compliments the remaining stars they have (Wiggins and KAT).

The departure of Jimmy Butler will not be great for Thibodeau at all. Anthony Towns and Wiggins have both expressed disagreements with his coaching style. Once Butler leaves Thibs will be on his way out shortly. This does not spell disaster for the Minnesota Timberwolves organization. They can hopefully start fresh with a new coach, two young stars and hopefully draft picks from trading Butler. Without Butler the Timberwolves are back to a rebuilding state, Wiggins and Anthony Towns do not equal a playoff team, especially in the Western Conference.

Update

Reports from league executives: Calls inquiring about Butler have been shut down. Timberwolves consider Butler franchise changing talent and are looking to keep him.

As a Bulls fan, I've heard, read, and watched a lot of Jimmy Butler. If there is someone in the NBA who will make these public complaints, request a trade, and then show up for the season...it's Butler. Regardless of the distractions, Butler will get his work in and do what he can.

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