Jimmy Butler

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2017/18 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. To no one’s surprise, the Warriors are viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2017/18 championship, with 28 of 30 GMs (93%) picking Golden State to repeat.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more interesting ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • Although half of the league’s GMs picked LeBron James as the 2017/18 MVP winner, LeBron only finished third in voting for the player GMs would want to start a franchise with today. Karl-Anthony Towns (29%) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (21%) were the top vote-getters for that question.
  • NBA general managers loved the Thunder‘s acquisition of Paul George. George received 59% of the vote for which offseason addition would make the biggest impact, easily beating out Jimmy Butler (17%), Chris Paul (10%), and Kyrie Irving (7%). Additionally, Oklahoma City was chosen as the team that made the best offseason moves, with 43% of the vote. The Celtics (25%), Timberwolves (14%), and Rockets (11%) were runners-up.
  • The Nuggets‘ signing of Paul Millsap (24%) and the Pistons‘ trade for Avery Bradley (17%) were regarded by NBA GMs as the most underrated acquisitions of the summer.
  • The Timberwolves (69%) were the runaway choice for most improved team, beating out the Sixers (17%) and a handful of other clubs. Of course, it’s worth noting that Minnesota was also the GMs’ pick for that question a year ago.
  • While Dennis Smith Jr. of the Mavericks (37%) was voted the biggest steal of the 2017 draft, most GMs expect Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball (62%) to win the Rookie of the Year award.

Northwest Notes: Butler, Hernangomez, Lillard

A comprehensive feature on Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler has shed some light on how the 30th overall draft pick has changed over the course of his ascent to stardom. Michael Pina of Vice Sports spent a day with the swingman, who describes himself as a difficult person to be around.

This season Butler has been reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the man at the helm in Chicago when Butler evolved from a fringe roster player to a key rotation piece into a star. For the last two years, however, Butler played under a different coach.

I’m confrontational. I feed off of confrontation. It makes me go,” Butler said. “Not everybody’s like that. [Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg] is not that coach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are different coaching styles and people are gonna say—which is what they did say—’It’s gonna be Jimmy’s team or it’s gonna be Fred’s team.’ Two total opposite ends of the spectrum.

Be sure to check out the long-read for fresh perspective on the Timberwolves guard’s backstory and mentality heading forward.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division tonight:

Lowe’s Latest: Celtics, Irving, Hayward, Butler

In our recap earlier today of where things stand on the Kyrie Irving front, we passed along several items of interest from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who identified a number of potential trade partners for the Cavaliers if their deal with the Celtics falls through. Lowe also cited sources who said that there’s at least a slight chance Isaiah Thomas could miss the entire 2017/18 season if his recovery doesn’t progress as smoothly as hoped.

Lowe’s in-depth piece on the Irving situation included a few more noteworthy details, which we’ll pass along here:

  • Timing played a major part in the Celtics‘ decision to go hard after Irving, rather than Paul George or Jimmy Butler. As Lowe notes, the team wanted to add two star players this summer, but wanted to make sure it could land Gordon Hayward in free agency before giving up key assets for that second star. Because the Bulls and Pacers agreed in June to trade their stars, they were no longer options for Boston, post-Hayward.
  • Irving’s age was also a key consideration for the Celtics, says Lowe. With Boston poised to build around young pieces like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the fact that Irving is two years younger than either George or Butler was important, and allows the C’s to extend their window of contention.
  • The Celtics also had some concerns about how Butler and Hayward might mesh – on and off the court – if they were to acquire both players, sources tell Lowe.
  • Even if the Celtics have to include a little more in the Irving deal to get it done, they still may be the most well-stocked team in the league in terms of trade assets, according to Lowe, who notes that could become important if the Pelicans eventually make Anthony Davis available. There’s no indication at this point that New Orleans will do so, but the Celtics’ eyes “are very much trained on” Davis, says Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, if Irving officially becomes a Celtic, he could play a part in helping to recruit an additional superstar, since the league’s stars respect Irving’s “ballsy showman’s game.” Celtics president Danny Ainge likes Irving more than many of his peers around the NBA for some of the same reasons, Lowe adds.

Central Notes: James, Pistons, Butler

A smattering of league executives that spoke with Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher echo the sentiment that LeBron James will leave the Cavaliers next summer, one Eastern Conference general manager even going so far as to call it a “foregone conclusion.”

Of course just two weeks ago we wrote about how there were conflicting reports about the King’s pending free agency decision. In Bucher’s latest, however, he writes that the Kyrie Irving trade hasn’t changed James’ Cavaliers outlook in the slightest.

Between lingering injury concerns surrounding Isaiah Thomas (hip) and James’ connection to Los Angeles, Bucher makes the case that the 32-year-old Cavalier icon could west to join the Lakers. “It’s all more about life after basketball than anything else,” a source tells him.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Would Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and a first-round pick have been enough for the Pistons to land Kyrie Irving? Ansar Khan of MLive doesn’t think so. The scribe says the Celtics‘ offer would have topped Detroit’s no matter what.
  • The Pacers spared no expense outfitting their new practice facility with 130,000 square feet of enticing new features, an Associated Press report says. Indiana hopes that facility can be a selling point for players and coaches.
  • Former Bulls guard Jimmy Butler doesn’t regret his mid-season comments criticizing teammates, saying that the organization doesn’t make it easy for players to express themselves. “I just think they make it tough to be yourself, to be who you are and express yourself the way you want to express yourself,” he told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cavaliers Were Close To Acquiring Paul George

The Cavaliers nearly landed Paul George in a three-team deal in late June, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst.

The trade would have sent Kevin Love to Denver and Gary Harris and other assets to Indiana, but Pacers president Kevin Pritchard reportedly backed out before everything was finalized.

Prior to the draft, Cleveland made trade offers to the Pacers for George and to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler. Once the Wolves acquired Butler on draft night, the Cavs stepped up their efforts for George, with the Nuggets agreeing to send Harris and the No. 13 pick to Cleveland, which would include those assets in a deal with Indiana. However, the Pacers put the trade on hold as they talked to the Trail Blazers about a deal to acquire all three of Portland’s first-rounders in exchange for George. Both proposals eventually fell through.

The Cavs continued to work on the trade following the draft, and an agreement was reached on June 30th. All three teams tentatively okayed to the deal on a conference call, and Cleveland began targeting free agents to fit with George. However, Pritchard changed his mind and the news broke soon after that George was headed to Oklahoma City.

The failed trade was part of a tumultuous offseason for the Cavaliers, as the ESPN authors examine in a lengthy piece. Cleveland also parted ways with GM David Griffin and was unable to land Chauncey Billups, who interviewed twice as a potential replacement. The team missed out on marquee free agents and had to settle for Jose Calderon and Jeff Green. Then star guard Kyrie Irving held a meeting with owner Dan Gilbert on July 7th where he issued a request to be traded.

Irving was reportedly angry that his name had been included in offers for Butler and George, and has been unhappy for some time with how much James dominates the ball. He also believes the team defers too much to James, noting that LeBron’s friend, Randy Mims, was given a position as executive administrator and flies on the team plane, while none of Irving’s friends has a similar arrangement.

The front office and the players have been aware of Irving’s intentions for two weeks, and there is confidence in the organization that the team can get enough assets for Irving to remain a contender. The Cavs have been inundated with calls from interested teams since the story broke on Friday.

Latest On Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving‘s request to be traded is the latest story to rock the league during an eventful offseason. The news broke Friday, but Irving’s meeting with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert took place about two weeks ago, according to Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com.

The Cavs tried to keep it quiet so they could work on a deal without the distractions that are starting to happen now. Apparently some players learned about the news and started talking, which is how the trade request became public.

Pluto also speculates that Irving’s demand validates rumors last month that former Bulls star Jimmy Butler was warned by Cavaliers players not to push for a trade to Cleveland. They have a close friendship, so Irving may have told Butler that he was planning to leave the team. Butler was subsequently traded to the Timberwolves, one of the teams Irving included on his list of preferred destinations, along with the Spurs, Knicks and Heat.

There’s more today on the Irving trade front:

  • The Wolves have a strong interest in acquiring Irving, even though they just signed former Pacers point guard Jeff Teague, Pluto adds in the same story. Pluto believes the Cavs should ask for Andrew Wiggins, whom the Cavs made the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2014, as part of the deal. Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns are untouchable, but Wiggins will be a free agent next summer if he doesn’t sign an extension before the October deadline.
  • The Knicks have offered Carmelo Anthony and a parcel of draft picks, adds Pluto, who says Cleveland should insist on Kristaps Porzingis. Other teams that have expressed interest include Sacramento, with rookie De’Aaron Fox as part of the offer, and Phoenix, with a package centered around Eric Bledsoe.
  • Pluto also notes that a trade would take away Irving’s opportunity to sign a super-max extension like the one John Wall just agreed to with the Wizards. The move could cost Irving between $50MM and $70MM.
  • Butler and Towns have done some recruiting work with Irving and have made it clear to Wolves management they would like to acquire him, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who first broke the story of Irving’s trade request. Windhorst believes Teague would likely be included in any Minnesota-Cleveland deal and notes that as a newly signed free agent he can’t be traded until December 15th.
  • The Spurs would be Irving’s first choice if he could pick a team, writes Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.
  • The Cavaliers had a deal on the table involving Irving before the draft, according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The trade was put together by former GM David Griffin, but the Cavaliers didn’t pull the trigger because they didn’t know that Irving wanted to leave.

Trade Notes: Carmelo, Blazers, Celtics, Drummond

The Knicks put Carmelo Anthony trade talks on hold last week, but that decision is likely temporary, according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical, who suggests that the team wanted to get new general manager Scott Perry involved in the process. The Knicks reportedly hope that Anthony will be willing to expand his list of preferred destinations beyond Houston and Cleveland, but there has been no indication yet that the star forward is open to going to a team like the Trail Blazers, despite alleged interest from Portland.

According to Mannix, the Trail Blazers have been involved in Anthony talks, but have primarily been acting as a third-team facilitator in discussions so far. Per Mannix’s report, an inability to find a fourth team willing to take on Meyers Leonard‘s contract stalled “at least one version” of the proposed deal.

Anthony’s preferred destination is believed to be Houston, and given his no-trade clause, the fact that Carmelo is willing to accept such a deal is a good start for the Rockets. However, GM Daryl Morey will still have to get the Knicks and potentially one or two other teams on board in order to land Anthony, which is why the situation remains in a holding pattern for now.

Here are a few more trade rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • Within the Vertical piece linked above, Chris Mannix notes that it’s “widely believed” the Celtics will make a run at Anthony Davis if the Pelicans‘ season goes south. New Orleans has been vehemently opposed to considering Davis deals, and while it’s possible that will change if the team struggles this season, DeMarcus Cousins would almost certainly land on the trading block first.
  • According to Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post, many teams around the NBA sensed this offseason that Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy was dissatisfied with center Andre Drummond. Detroit took calls on Drummond, but team owner Tom Gores is a big fan of the 23-year-old, and the Pistons didn’t receive any offers strong enough to merit a serious conversation about the big man’s future, per Bontemps.
  • Appearing on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Jimmy Butler confirmed that he left a June exit meeting with Bulls brass believing that he’d remain in Chicago. “I thought I was going to be there so I’m not going to say word for word what they said, but when I left there I did think I was going to be there,” Butler said, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “But like I said, it’s a business and it is what it is.”

Northwest Notes: George, Patterson, Gobert

Make no mistake, Oklahoma City’s one mission this season is to convince Paul George to remain with the Thunder once he hits free agency next summer. But what, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman asks, does the All-Star forward want?

George and his representation have been nothing if not forthright about the 27-year-old’s desire to sign with the Lakers in the summer of 2018 but he still has a season under contract and a fresh, new change of scenery to enjoy with the Thunder until that time comes.

If George truly wants to play for a winner, the Thunder have a legitimate chance of positioning themselves as the better option than the Lakers, Horne writes. Oklahoma City has, after all, been competitive for the past five years while the Lakers have toiled in mediocrity.

The question is whether playing for a winner will ever actually trump George’s desire to return to his home state.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The move to sign Patrick Patterson will help the Thunder on the defensive end, the forward’s former coach Kevin McHale told The Oklahoman. He says Patterson is the type of player that excels at all the little parts of the game.
  • With Gordon Hayward on his way to the Celtics, it’s become clear that Rudy Gobert may have been the leader of the Jazz all along, Brad Rock of The Deseret News writes. The big man has long been more charismatic and vocal than his Beantown-bound counterpart.
  • The move that sent Avery Bradley from the Celtics to the Pistons has all but extinguished any hopes the Jazz had of pulling off a sign-and-trade connected to Gordon Hayward’s move to Boston, Jody Genessey of The Deseret News writes.
  • The Timberwolves saw an opportunity and seized it this offseason, bringing Jeff Teague into the fold at the expense of long-time point guard Ricky Rubio. “Ricky did a good job here; we’re happy for him,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau told the media, including Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “We wish him well. He made a number of contributions to our team, our organization and community and we certainly appreciate that. For us where we are now, we have to get out of this hole and we felt we had an opportunity to improve our team, and that’s why we did what we did.”
  • An additional benefit the Timberwolves will enjoy after bringing Jimmy Butler aboard will be his contributions as a recruiter, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago writes.
  • No team in the NBA shot worse when wide open beyond the arc than the Thunder did last season, that should change after the club welcomes Paul George and Patrick Patterson to its lineup, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.

Bulls Notes: Wade, Butler, Team’s Direction

The Bulls unveiled their return from last week’s Jimmy Butler trade as Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, Lauri Markkanen, took the stage on Tuesday. Shipping out the so-called “face” of the franchise in Butler signaled a change in direction for the Bulls.

Despite making the postseason in eight of the last nine seasons, general manager John Paxson believes that the team is well prepared for rebuild with young talent, ABC News’ Andrew Seligman writes.

“I’m excited about what the environment in this building is going to be like going forward,” Paxson said. “I’m not worried about perception. We understand this could take time, it’s a process. But as long as these kids can play hard and compete our fans will appreciate them, and we’ll get better.”

Dunn is coming off an inconsistent rookie campaign; LaVine missed most of the second half of 2016/17 due to a torn ACL; and Markkanen is a heralded but unproven prospect. With decisions on veterans Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade looming, Chicago is poised to assemble a young team with potentially great upside.

Below are additional notes surrounding the Bulls:

  • Speaking of Butler, the now-former Bulls All-Star addressed his trade to the Timberwolves last week to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times and vented some frustrations about the ordeal. The 27-year-old said being the “face” of the team doesn’t mean a damn thing,” He also added that despite any label, he learned that ” eventually you’re going to see the back of his head as he’s leaving town, so no thanks.” Butler added that he is not mad at being traded but wishes some things went differently.
  • In a separate piece, Cowley writes that Wade came out a winner after the Butler trade. The three-time NBA champion picked up his $23.8MM player option for 2017/18 early and that gives him power. Cowley notes that Wade planned to press Bulls brass on a buyout if Butler was dealt and since that’s the case, Wade’s days with his hometown Bulls could be numbered

Bulls Notes: Wade, Rondo, LaVine, Butler

Now that Dwyane Wade has opted into the final year of his contract with the Bulls, the team doesn’t appear to have much interest in buying him out, as Nick Friedell of ESPN.com writes, Executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson told reporters today that the Bulls and Wade’s camp haven’t discussed a buyout for the veteran guard, and for the club to consider such a move, it would “have to be advantageous for us.” In other words, Wade would likely have to give back a significant chunk of his $23.8MM salary for the 2017/18 season if he wants out of Chicago.

Here are a few more Bulls-related notes:

  • At season’s end, the Bulls sounded committed to bringing back Rajon Rondo, whose contract for 2017/18 is mostly non-guaranteed. However, the team sounds less certain now, and Paxson said that decision is still being weighed. “We’re going to sit down with [Rondo’s agent] Bill [Duffy] and talk through [things],” Paxson said today, per Friedell. “We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team. The right veterans. The guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys, and continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”
  • While it’s possible the Bulls will cut Rondo and try to re-sign him at a lower number than his current $13MM+ salary, that looks like a long shot, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.
  • Zach LaVine, who was introduced as a Bull today, is optimistic about his rehab process, but doesn’t want to put an exact timetable on his return to the court, writes Friedell. “I’m going to be safe,” LaVine said. “The main thing is always being safe. And I always have to take care of myself and this franchise as well, so I’m going to be safe. I’m going to do everything I can physically to get back, and then when I’m at that point, I’m going to be ready.”
  • Shortly after he was traded to the Timberwolves, Jimmy Butler spoke to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Although Butler said he wasn’t mad at the Bulls, he admitted he didn’t exactly love the way the franchise handled the process. I guess being called the face of an organization isn’t as good as I thought,” Butler added. “We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me.”
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