It appears as though the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler has asked for a trade. It’s been a weird season for Butler, but here we are.
Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski. Butler has given Minnesota a list of one-to-three teams with whom he's open to signing extension, in anticipation of trade.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 19, 2018
For our purposes, the most pressing question, obviously, is how the Raptors will get him, in spite of having zero high picks and few high value trade pieces. So let’s take a look at the best packages the team might be able to put together.
By the way, if this feels familiar...
The usual construction of a trade for a superstar is a pile of picks and prospects, plus enough salary to make it work financially — usually attached to a player the receiving team likes, or thinks they can flip for more assets.
The obvious salary matching option for Butler straight up is Jonas Valanciunas. Butler makes just $20.5 million, so the Raptors can match his salary with Valanciunas alone — but also have some wiggle room to add some prospect contracts. That said, with Towns in Minnesota, Valanciunas would be minimized there and unlikely to provide them value whether kept or flipped, with the current market for centres.
Also, with their 2019 pick already gone, and the Raptors likely to want to protect any future 1st rounders they send out, they are going to need to absorb a bad salary in the deal as well, and the Wolves have one obvious candidate - Gorgui Dieng is owed $16 million per year over the next three seasons, and was relegated to a low minutes bench role (he started zero games last year and played under 17 MPG).
Assuming both those players are coming back in the deal (total salary $35.6 million), the Raptors need to send out $28.4 million in salary. At that point, the more obvious salary ballast is Serge Ibaka ($21.7 million) plus one of the Raptors’ mid-level wings - Danny Green ($10 million), CJ Miles ($8.3 million) or Norman Powell ($9.4 million). Obviously the Raptors would also prefer to keep their starting centre.
So something like Ibaka, Green, Delon Wright and the Raptors’ 2021 1st round pick (lottery protected) might be the best offer they could put together without risking much. That sort of deal would save Minnesota some money right away as well as long term, which might be key for them (they are just above the tax line right now).
If they need to up the ante on the prospect value, they could add in (or substitute) Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby. That’s the scenario where the long term risk becomes real, as both players seem like centrepieces of a potential upcoming rebuild (as well as key contributors to winning now).
The question will be what sort of offers other teams are willing to make. In this way, this is very much like the Kawhi Leonard situation. If the market is cold for another potential rental and big flight risk, the Raptors could again have a chance to come out on top. It’s not likely, but neither was the Raptors getting Kawhi.
Smaller Deals Package
Or maybe Ibaka’s big contract is not desirable, and they prefer something built around smaller deals. A package of Green, Miles, Powell, Wright and that 1st round pick could add up to enough salary, and still save the Wolves a lot of money overall.
That sort of deal would require the Wolves to like Norman Powell as a player - his deal runs even longer than Dieng’s (though for significantly less money), so if they don’t value him, they’d likely prefer Serge’s bigger and shorter contract. Miles has a player option after this season, so could potentially end up an expiring contract for them as well, depending on how his year goes.
Now, the Wolves may prioritize off-loading Dieng’s salary, which the Raptors can help with over the long term at least. Or, instead, they might want to get an established talent back and try to keep winning for the next few years of coach (and, crucially, President) Tom Thibodeau’s career.
Star for a Star
DeMar DeRozan was the name on many lips among Raptors fans this spring, and lo and behold, he was traded for Kawhi Leonard.
One option for Jimmy Butler is to try to recreate that deal, and swap Kyle Lowry for Jimmy Butler. This seems like a bad idea to me, personally, as the point of this season is to maximize talent, and Butler is only a moderate upgrade over Lowry, while being a little harder to fit into just any system. Never mind that Lowry and Butler are reportedly fairly close, and it would seem the best bet to re-sign Butler after this season would be to have Lowry here with him.
But if desired, the Raptors could build a deal around Lowry for Butler very easily. With Lowry having more value, the Raptors probably don’t look to take back Dieng’s long term salary, instead taking back Jeff Teague’s shorter deal to fill in their PG depth, even if they may decide to start VanVleet over Teague. The salaries can match just attaching a low salary to Lowry.
You’d probably still include a draft pick, but it would look something more like this:
Lowry, Richardson and 2021 protected 1st for Butler and Teague.
Again, I don’t really like that latter deal as much as the ones I presented first. But it’s an option.
In any case, as was the case with the Kawhi Leonard rumours, this will probably not happen. Butler even provided a list of three teams that the Raptors were not on. But just like with Kawhi Leonard (who had a one team list, which the Raptors were not on), it’s definitely possible.
Sound off below, let me know what you think. Are the Raptors giving up too much? Not enough? Or is this meant to be? Should the Raptors even be chasing another guy who might leave next summer? Is it worth the risk? Would you add in a prospect like OG or Siakam to close the deal if that’s what it took? Would you trade Lowry at all?
All salaries per basketballinsiders.com.