Jimmy Butler

And-Ones: 2019 FAs, MVP Odds, Oldest Vets

An ESPN panel was asked where they think some of the top-projected free agents of 2019 might end up next summer. The results were interesting, with the panel making a prediction for five players: Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson.

As we explored earlier this summer, both Irving and Butler have reportedly expressed interested in playing together, and the panel obviously took that into consideration, predicting both players to suit up for the Knicks next season. However, the Celtics were a close second for Irving.

Interestingly, the Lakers were the second-highest voted selection for both Butler and Thompson, and the first-place selection for Leonard by a wide-margin. Meanwhile, both Thompson and Durant are projected to return to the Warriors.

We have more from around the league:

Western Notes: Butler, Lillard, Anthony

The Timberwolves have given off the impression that they won’t trade Jimmy Butler but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders speculates that a rocky start to the season could make the franchise reconsider its position.

The Western Conference is as competitive as ever and Minnesota is no lock to be a playoff team. Should the Wolves slide in the standings, Butler’s frustration with his teammates could grow and with only one season remaining on his deal, there won’t be much time to mend the relationship.

The front office has tried to get Butler to sign an extension with no success. However, it is worth noting that it’s in the 28-year-old’s best interest to wait and sign a new deal in the offseason rather than inking an extension now since he’s eligible for a larger starting salary this summer.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers have no clear path to improve enough in order to compete with the Warriors for the Western Conference crown and Kyler (in the same piece) wonders whether it will force Portland to consider dealing Damian Lillard. Kyler adds that the point guard is “loyal to a fault,” meaning a lack of success for the franchise won’t result in him demanding a trade.
  • The Rockets‘ loss of Trevor Ariza and addition of Carmelo Anthony has critics yet again doubting the team. Coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried about the skeptics, as Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle relays. “It’s our job to prove them wrong,” D’Antoni said. “And we did it for two years now.”
  • Solomon (in the same piece) notes how many around the league doubted the Chris PaulJames Harden pairing, believing that with only one ball, the two players couldn’t possibly flourish. The Rockets ended last season with a record of 44-4 in games in which both players started and Solomon cautions against writing off the Anthony acquisition without seeing him alongside the team’s stars.

Western Rumors: George, Schroder, Butler, Harris

Paul George made up his mind to stay with the Thunder weeks before free agency, which is why he didn’t bother meeting with the Lakers, Marc Spears of ESPN relays. George, speaking after a Team USA practice on Thursday, acknowledged Oklahoma City took a gamble by trading for him last offseason after he previously made it known he wanted to play in L.A. That gamble paid off, even though it was “tempting” to meet with the Lakers, according to George.

“Honestly, I wanted to come back home. But again, I got traded to [the Thunder],” he said. “Loved the situation. Loved where I was at. I decided to stick around a little longer. … I just wanted my free agency to be over with.”

George inked a four-year, $137MM deal to stay put.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • George is thrilled with the acquisition of Dennis Schroder from the Hawks, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman passes along. Schroder was biggest piece OKC acquired from Atlanta in the Carmelo Anthony swap. “He’s not going to start, but hands down the best backup point guard in the league,” George said. “He’s that mid-tier star in our league, one of the best point guards in the league in general. … We’ve got another scorer, another playmaker and just another savvy guy in the locker room that can help us win ball games.”
  • Timberwolves shooting guard Jimmy Butler underwent a minor elective procedure on his right hand, the team’s PR department tweets. Butler has already returned to offseason activities.
  • Clippers forward Tobias Harris appreciated the team’s $80MM extension offer but ultimately decided he’d take his chances as an unrestricted free agent next summer, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. “I think that as a player you never know, but just to get that offer was an amazing feeling,” Harris told Turner. “For me, I’m a kid who puts everything into the game and to have an organization come to me with that offer and to be able to present that was a really big accomplishment. It showed that the team valued me as a player.”
  • Warriors forward Draymond Green isn’t participating in the USA Basketball minicamp, Spears tweets. He joins many other stars, including LeBron James and Stephen Curry, who decided to skip it.

Timberwolves Owner Talks Towns, Wiggins, FAs

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed last week that Jimmy Butler turned down the team’s contract extension offer, since he’ll have the ability to earn a much larger payday if he waits another year and signs as a free agent in 2019. In his conversation with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, Taylor also discussed several other topics, including a possible rookie scale extension for Karl-Anthony Towns.

According to Taylor, the Wolves have already put a maximum-salary offer on the table for Towns and there shouldn’t be much negotiating required. The club has until mid-October to finalize an extension with the former first overall pick, and Taylor sounds confident it’ll happen before then.

“I’m sure he’s going to sign it. It doesn’t really make that much difference to me when he does it,” Taylor said. “We haven’t put any deadline on it or anything like that. The offer’s out there. … I’m confident that we won’t have any problem with it.”

Here’s more from the Timberwolves’ owner:

  • According to Taylor, the Timberwolves aren’t interested in trading Andrew Wiggins at this point. The Wolves owner stressed that the franchise doesn’t want to “give up” on a player as young as Wiggins, who is still just 23. “A lot of players, it took them three or four years to get better and then they just keep getting better,” Taylor said. “I don’t see why Andrew won’t be one of those people, because he has such natural ability.”
  • The Timberwolves signed Anthony Tolliver because they didn’t want to wait on a decision from Nemanja Bjelica, who was seeking a two-year deal. Bjelica ultimately signed with Philadelphia for less than what Minnesota offered him, according to Taylor.
  • Asked about filling out the rest of the Timberwolves’ roster, Taylor acknowledged that minimum-salary signings are the most likely path for the club. “I got the list of who they’re talking to, and they’re not exactly [big-]name players,” Taylor said of the free agents his front office is targeting. “The names they have right now are a little younger, but they have some experience. [The front office] believes that they have the ability to improve.”
  • Taylor also noted that many of Minnesota’s free agent targets are strong defensively, adding that the team wants to improve its bench’s defensive numbers.
  • The Timberwolves owner downplayed the idea that there’s tension between Jimmy Butler and some of the Wolves’ other stars, suggesting that Butler “just wants to win” and wants to make sure that “people around him play really hard.”

Jimmy Butler Turns Down Wolves’ Extension Offer

All-NBA forward Jimmy Butler has formally turned down a contract extension offer from the Timberwolves, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, citing team owner Glen Taylor. As Wolfson notes, the four-year deal would have been worth in excess of $100MM. Butler and his camp expressed gratitude to the Wolves for extending such a generous offer, Wolfson adds (via Twitter).

This news doesn’t come as a surprise, and it doesn’t mean that Butler is plotting his exit from Minnesota. We heard earlier this offseason that the Timberwolves intended to offer their All-Star forward a contract extension, but CBA rules limit the team to offering four years and approximately $100MM, as cap expert Albert Nahmad details (via Twitter).

If he waits until 2019 and opts out of his contract, Butler would be eligible for a new five-year contract worth nearly $190MM with the Wolves, based on a $109MM cap projection for 2019/20. If he wants to sign a new four-year deal with another team at that time, it could be worth up to $140MM+, assuming the cap increases to $109MM.

While the Wolves shouldn’t worry too much about Butler opting not to sign an extension at this point, the former Bull isn’t necessarily a lock to stay in Minnesota long term. There have been reports of tension among the Wolves’ three stars – Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns – so the club will have to do everything it can to make sure those three players are on the same page going forward. Wiggins is already on a long-term max contract with the Wolves, and the team is said to be discussing a similar deal with Towns.

There have also been whispers that Butler and Kyrie Irving have interest in teaming up. Irving is in a similar situation to Butler — both players have player options for 2019/20, meaning they’re likely to reach free agency at the same time next summer. Like Butler, Irving is extension-eligible, but has pointed out that it wouldn’t make financial sense for him to sign a new deal before reaching free agency.

Lowe’s Latest: Kawhi, Sixers, Celtics, Scott, More

The Sixers have not made Markelle Fultz available in Kawhi Leonard trade talks with the Spurs, and the Celtics haven’t been willing to include Jaylen Brown in their discussions with San Antonio, ESPN’s Zach Lowe confirms in his latest article.

We’ve heard variations on Lowe’s report for the last week or two, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link) recently suggesting that the Sixers don’t want to discuss Fultz, Joel Embiid, or Ben Simmons in Leonard talks, and adding that the Celtics’ top five players have been “off-limits” in negotiations with the Spurs — presumably, Woj was referring to Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford.

Lowe’s full piece on the Leonard situation features several more tidbits of note, including some items only tangentially related to a possible Leonard trade. Let’s round up the highlights…

  • LeBron James isn’t pressuring the Lakers to add a second star for now, according to Lowe, who says that James “has faith in the combined powers of his supernova talent and the Lakers brand.” LeBron also recognizes that Brandon Ingram has considerable upside and is aware that many star free agents could be on the market in 2019, Lowe notes.
  • Lowe classifies rumors that Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving want to play together as “credible chatter.” However, the Celtics remain confident that they’ll be able to re-sign Irving next year, per Lowe.
  • Details of Mike Scott‘s contract agreement with the Clippers have yet to surface, but Lowe indicates the deal will use part of the team’s mid-level exception rather than being a minimum-salary signing.
  • Lowe’s piece is worth checking out in full, particularly for a section in which he brainstorms hypothetical wild-card suitors for Leonard, exploring whether the Raptors, Trail Blazers, Wizards, Timberwolves, Thunder, Heat, Rockets, Bucks, Nuggets, Warriors, Pistons, or Kings might be fits — many are quick “no”s, but some generate some intriguing hypothetical deals.

Central Notes: Bulls, Evans, Stefanski, Love

The Bulls could be in position to build the NBA’s next superteam, suggests Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago. Citing a report that Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving would like to team up, Walton notes that Chicago has the resources to make it happen. Both players could become free agents next summer, and the Bulls have a path to offer two near-max contracts.

By renouncing their rights to Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne and stretching Omer Asik‘s contract, Chicago can trim its payroll to $64.6MM. The Bulls could also improve their chances by trading for Butler or Irving this season, Walton notes. Getting Butler away from former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau seems impossible, but Walton states that the Celtics may be tempted by an offer for Irving centered around Zach LaVine or Kris Dunn, whom Boston tried to trade up for when he was coming out of college.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers boosted their chances to be a top three team in the East by landing Tyreke Evans, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. The addition of Evans, along with Doug McDermott and rookie Aaron Holiday, gives Indiana far more firepower off the bench than it had this season, Doyel contends. One of eight players to average 19 points, five rebounds and five assists during the season, Evans is versatile enough to help the Pacers in a variety of ways.
  • Ed Stefanski has been maximizing his resources since taking over as senior adviser for the Pistons, notes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. In his brief time in the new role, Stefanski hired the reigning Coach of the Year in Dwane Casey, added Malik Rose to the front office, drafted two promising second-rounders in Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown, then added Jose Calderon and Glenn Robinson III in free agency.
  • Pistons guard Luke Kennard suffered a left knee strain during practice that will force him to miss summer league, the team tweeted. The decision to hold him out is most likely a precaution, Beard notes (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers remain focused on making the playoffs, even after the loss of LeBron James, according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The team insists it will hang onto Kevin Love, the only All-Star remaining on the roster, and try to rebuild around him.

Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving Interested In Playing Together?

All-Stars and former USA Basketball teammates Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving are interested in figuring out a way to play together, a league source close to the situation tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Both Butler and Irving were dealt to new teams in 2017 and thrived in those new homes during the 2017/18 season, so neither player is viewed as a trade candidate for the time being. However, both veterans hold player options for the 2019/20 season, meaning they could opt out and reach free agency at the same time a year from now.

Both Irving and Butler are eligible for contract extensions this summer, but are unlikely to sign them. A June report indicated that Irving won’t consider a new deal this offseason, since it wouldn’t make financial sense for the Celtics point guard to do so. Butler is in a similar boat for the Timberwolves, as he has the ability to make significantly more money if he waits for free agency.

Additionally, a league source tells Cowley that Butler has been “all but fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates” in Minnesota. Cowley singles out Karl-Anthony Towns as a player who isn’t on the same page as the veteran forward, hinting that Butler’s end-of-season comments to the Sun-Times could have been aimed at KAT and other young teammates.

Butler said in late April that he doesn’t understand “how or why you all don’t love to get better the way that I do” and that he gets “lost in how everybody is not built the way that I’m built.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about unease in Minnesota related to the team’s three stars, Butler, Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. While there’s no indication that the Timberwolves need to take immediate steps to address any tension by moving one of those three players, the frequency of these reports is making it harder to envision them all staying with the franchise long term.

Wolves Plan To Offer Jimmy Butler Contract Extension

The Timberwolves plan to offer guard Jimmy Butler a contract extension in the four-year, $110MM range as soon as they’re eligible to do so, Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets. That, however, doesn’t mean that he’ll necessarily sign it.

Due to limitations of the contract extension scale in place, Butler would only be eligible sign for as much as $24.5MM in 2019/20. That mark falls well short of the projected first year of a max contract for a player with Butler’s service should he choose to enter free agency in 2019.

Butler will be 29 years old this time next year, with eight years of NBA experience. While the actual figures will change when the 2019/20 salary figures are released, he would be eligible to sign for north of $30MM based on this year’s figures and is still young enough to make a serious case for a full five-year deal.

Butler posted 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in his first season with the Timberwolves and emerged as a driving force behind Minnesota’s return to the postseason for the first time in 2004.

Wolves Rumors: Butler, Wiggins, Jones, Dieng

Jimmy Butler will have the opportunity to opt out and sign a new contract with the Timberwolves a year from now, but Sean Deveney of The Sporting News hears from sources familiar with the situation that Butler is uncertain about playing alongside Andrew Wiggins in the long term. According to Deveney, Butler had issues last season related to Wiggins’ work ethic and defensive approach.

As Deveney details, head coach Tom Thibodeau has had similar gripes with Wiggins in the past, and had hoped that bringing in a “tough-minded” veteran like Butler would motivate the former No. 1 pick to improve. However, it didn’t seem to help much.

While the Wolves figure to explore the trade market for Wiggins this summer, it will be hard to find a viable deal with his five-year, maximum-salary contract set to take effect, Deveney notes.

Here’s more from Deveney on the Wolves:

  • Thibodeau’s use of his bench continues to be a source of friction in Minnesota, with Tyus Jones among the backups adversely affected. A source tells Deveney that Jeff Teague suggested to Thibodeau last season that Jones should play more.
  • According to Deveney, Jones considered requesting a trade out of Minnesota, but Thibodeau “reasserted his support” of the young guard following the season, assuring Jones that his role will increase next season even if Derrick Rose is re-signed, due to the presumed departure of Jamal Crawford.
  • While the Wolves don’t appear likely to move Jones, they’ll look to deal highly-priced backup Gorgui Dieng, per Deveney.
  • I touched on several of these topics earlier this week in my preview of the Timberwolves’ offseason.