According to the Sun-Sentinel, Pat Riley has “pulled the plug” on a Jimmy Butler trade. The Heat seemed like an obvious fit for Butler. They boast a bunch of role players, but need a true star to move the needle. The Heat would look like a top five team in the Eastern Conference with Butler. This story smells like another one of Pat Riley’s tricks to drive down the price with the Timberwolves. However, let’s assume the Heat are out. Who else could jump into the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes?
Los Angeles Clippers
Best assets: Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Butler has acknowledged he wants to play in LA. The Clippers do not have a ton of incentive to trade the farm for him since they could sign him outright in free agency next summer. However, the wait-and-see approach has spurned teams in the past (see: Paul George) and the Clippers may want to enter next summer with one high-profile star already in place. Expect a deal centered around Tobias Harris, SGA, and picks.
Best Assets: Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre
You get what you pay for with the Washington Wizards. They flash potential, boast multiple stars, but seem to come up short every year. The Wizards should take a page from the Raptors book and shake things up. They could start with a proposal built around Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre. They may need to go for broke and trade Butler for Beal straight up. Regardless, it is obvious the Wizards need a change. A trade for Jimmy Butler could push them over the top and they have little to lose as it appears this current iteration of the Wizards has peaked.
New Orleans Pelicans
Best Assets: Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Picks
The Pelicans don’t have a ton of assets they could use in a Jimmy Butler trade, but a deal seems to make sense for both sides. The Timberwolves could view Holiday as a great consolation prize for having to lose Jimmy Butler. Jrue Holiday had a breakout season last year averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage. The Pelicans may want Jeff Teague to replace Holiday, however they are probably scared off by his salary. A third team would have to be involved to sweeten the pot for the Pelicans while taking on Teague’s contract. New Orleans would be going all-in to keep Anthony Davis long-term. Pairing Butler and Davis could be lethal in the Western Conference and would give the Pelicans their highest ceiling in recent years. If Butler walks next summer, the Pelicans are at least rid of Holiday’s salary and can focus their dollars towards building around Anthony Davis.
Best Assets: Gary Harris, Will Barton, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter
The Nuggets have quietly assembled one of the deepest rosters in the league with several intriguing assets. They attempted to package Gary Harris in a deal for Kevin Love two summers ago. I would not be shocked if they tried to do a similar trade with Minnesota for Jimmy Butler. The Timberwolves need scoring guards to complement Andrew Wiggins and Towns and one of the Denver trio would be a great add. Butler would instantly legitimize Denver and could push the Nuggets into the top half of the Western Conference.
Best Assets: Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Zhaire Smith
The Sixers are ready to win now and may view Jimmy Butler as the final piece to the puzzle. Due to the upcoming contract extension to Ben Simmons, the Sixers have through next summer to easily add one more max salary player. Recent reports indicate that Butler has “eyes for the Sixers.” The Sixers have been emphatic that they are not interested in acquired him. Any trade for Butler would have to include Markelle Fultz. Given his current mental state, it is tough to see Fultz and Butler co-existing on the same team. A trade of Fultz, Covington, and a pick for Butler seems to make the most sense for both sides, however I do not see the Sixers ready to give up on Fultz quite yet.
Brooklyn Nets: It would be unwise to trade multiple first round picks for Jimmy Butler. Unfortunately, they do not have the right assets to entice Minnesota unless the Timberwolves are high on D’Angelo Russell (and high on paying him next summer).
New York Knicks: The Knicks are in a similar spot as the Nets. They should not trade the farm for him, especially with the summer of 2019 free agency looming. A deal built around Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina does not feel like enough for the Timberwolves.
Houston Rockets: They have been mentioned in rumors but have not pulled the trigger yet. Fit would be a concern. Chris Paul, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, and one basketball. That does not seem to add up.
76th Sense Prediction: The Denver Nuggets acquire Jimmy Butler for Gary Harris