Despite the fact that Jimmy Butler seeking a trade out of Minnesota, head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau is reportedly averse to the idea of dealing his star swingman, preferring to keep Butler around and push for the playoffs again in 2018/19. As Sean Deveney of The Sporting News reports, citing multiple league sources, Thibodeau is even less inclined to move Butler in exchange for “young, rebuilding-type pieces.”
According to Deveney, Thibodeau initially made the move from Chicago to Minnesota because he thought that the Timberwolves were on the path to contention, and last summer’s acquisition of Butler was meant to accelerate that process. Dealing Butler for a package of young players and/or picks would mean taking a step back, and Thibodeau has “zero interest” in that scenario, Deveney notes.
“No one expects Tom to coach a 25-win or even 35-win team,” one front-office executive told Deveney. “Even if he has to agree to dissolve the contract, they’d do that before they go and trade Butler for draft picks.”
While it may be an exaggeration to suggest that Thibodeau would quit before he trades Butler for draft picks, it will be interesting to see whether he and owner Glen Taylor are on the same page when it comes to the All-NBA wing. While Taylor was certainly pleased that the Wolves’ playoff drought ended this past spring, he – like Thibodeau – likely wants to see a deeper postseason run next time around.
The middle ground between keeping Butler and moving him for a package of young players and picks would be to take the route the Spurs did with Kawhi Leonard, attempting to secure a return highlighted by win-now pieces. Of the three teams on Butler’s wish list, the Clippers may be best equipped to offer such a package, but Minnesota figures to expand its list of possible trade partners beyond just the Clippers, Knicks, and Nets.
As Deveney outlines, Minnesota plans to make Butler available to “any team.” The Heat have been cited as one club that could be in the mix, and rival executives believe the Suns and Nuggets will be among the others with interest, according to Deveney. As we’ve seen with Leonard and Paul George, high-profile trade candidates don’t always end up where we expect, so it’s worth keeping an eye on those other teams like Phoenix and Denver.