While teams trying to deal with the Timberwolves as the Jimmy Butler saga drags have expressed frustration with the asking price — Miami’s offer was centered around solid, young two-way guard Josh Richardson and a draft pick, but the Wolves sought to add deadweight salary into the mix — there’s also a good deal of trepidation about acquiring Butler, league executives told Sporting News.
"As good as Jimmy is, I think you have to be concerned about the impact he is going to have in the locker room, on your younger guys, on your coaching staff, all of that," one general manager said. "He has gotten the benefit of the doubt, but if you look at his history, he’s had trouble getting along in Chicago and now in Minnesota.
"Everywhere he goes, it becomes about Jimmy, and if you’re going to bring him in, you have to account for that."
TRADE RUMORS: Butler not backing down from request
For Minnesota, there is the obvious need to get a return package for Butler that keeps the team in the playoff mix. Butler is an elite player, a four-time All-Star who averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists last year, and he is an excellent defender. The Timberwolves earned a playoff spot for the first time since 2004 with Butler on board. Minnesota does not want to give all of that up.
There are, of course, plenty of factors that have hindered a Butler trade. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has been reluctant to move Butler all along, even as the team’s opening game looms just a week away. Owner Glen Taylor, though, has been eager to honor Butler’s trade demand and get the roster set. Sources told Sporting News last month that, if the Wolves deal Butler for rebuilding-type pieces, Thibodeau would likely leave the job by season’s end.
There’s also Butler’s leverage. Because Butler has a year left on his contract, teams uncertain that he could be re-signed have not been part of the group making offers.
That group Butler prefers is limited to the Nets, Heat and Clippers, though other teams have at least inquired about getting Butler on the cheap. Miami has had the most serious Butler talks, but those reportedly crashed this weekend as Minnesota upped its price on a Butler swap.
Other teams have not been engaging the Wolves in any kind of bidding war — not just yet. Brooklyn has been timid in its approach toward Butler, having amassed some solid young pieces and established a hard-working culture under coach Kenny Atkinson. The Nets went so far as to nix including small forward Caris LeVert — a promising 24-year-old, but hardly a star — in trade talks.
The Clippers have been in contact with the Wolves, too, but LA won’t include forward Tobias Harris in a deal. Instead, the Clippers have juggled offers that include Danilo Gallinari as the centerpiece, or some combination including guards Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic and others.
"The Wolves want to get fair value on Jimmy, but that is not going to happen," one executive told Sporting News. "It’s not just that. If you’re the Nets or Clippers, you know you could sign the guy next summer without giving up anything. It’s also, is this the right fit with what we are doing? The Nets have been trying to build up a certain culture, but you add Butler and that dynamic changes.
"It is going to be Jimmy Butler and then everyone else. That’s how he has been in Chicago and in Minnesota."
Indeed, few would argue that Butler’s complaints about the work ethics of young Wolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, which came out through sources this offseason, are justified. By the same token, his complaints about Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and the organization’s direction were justified in Chicago.
But Butler did little during his time with the Bulls to help Hoiberg, or to help his young teammates. It was much the same in Minnesota, where Butler didn’t do much to mentor Towns or Wiggins.
Now that he wants to be traded, teams are acutely aware of that. Butler has been in some dysfunctional situations, not entirely of his making.
But his part in that dysfunction is not being ignored.