As we approach the finale of the NBA
season with the Eastern and Western Conference Finals playing out, the
teams that are out of the equation have already begun setting up their strategy for the 2016
offseason. The Minnesota Timberwolves are no exception to this yearly
phenomenon, in fact, they have been rumored to be interested in the Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler—Tom Thibodeau's former success story.
The lead up to the NBA Draft and
free-agency is always an exciting time for teams, fans, and the media
alike. The rumor mill this time of the year churns out
constant chatter around the league about the draft, free-agency, and
plenty of trade rumors that range from almost believable to absurdly
After the hiring of Thibodeau, rumors instantly began to form that the Timberwolves franchise would likely target former Bulls players in free-agency
(think Pau Gasol/ Luol Deng) to help round out the team. Also that he is rumored to covet the services of Butler from them as well.
So, what would it take to pry Butler from the Bulls? From what it sounds like online, it would
take the #5 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins or Zach
LaVine, and a future first round draft pick to obtain Butler.
While I believe Butler is a great player and would help improve
the Wolves' playoff chances significantly, I think overall in the
long run it just doesn't make sense to do.
Butler just signed a contract
extension last year for five years and $95 million with a player
option on the fifth year. Andrew Wiggins is currently on his rookie
contract worth just over $17 million on three years that goes through the 2017-2018 season. If Wiggins is traded, Butler's contract would hurt the cap space more than Wiggins' contract currently does, possibly
affecting free-agent acquisitions that could help round out the team
better with their current core of Wiggins, LaVine, and Karl-Anthony
Butler is also five years older than
Wiggins at 26-years-old, and although he is currently a better player and an
All-Star—Wiggins has the potential to be a better version of
Butler—also obtaining elite level defensive skills and a much higher upside on the
offensive side of the ball.
There is also the chemistry issue here.
Why break up an already good thing between Wiggins, Towns, and
LaVine? Just watching the games you can see the chemistry these three
hold with one another, watch any of the post game interviews or any of the celebratory game winning shots—these guys and the team as whole
really show cohesiveness through the good and the bad.
You can also checkout their social
media activity as they are usually “shouting out” to one another
or just hanging out together playing video games. Breaking up the core of these three young
potential All-Stars and Hall of Famers would be a monumental mistake. Wolves
fans everywhere can wait another year or two before making some noise
in the playoffs, they've been doing it for years already. Even with instant success upon the arrival of Butler, the Wolves would be wise to consider growing within with their current core.
Finally, why would the Chicago Bulls
front office want to work with their former coach, Thibodeau? There were
stories of them constantly clashing and butting heads about personnel
decisions and how the starters were being overplayed which led to
various long-term injuries throughout Thibodeau's five seasons as
Head Coach. The breakup between the front office and Thibodeau wasn't
pretty and many around the league believe both parties left with a
sour taste in their mouths.
It's hard to imagine these two
working out any type of deal/trade because of the bad blood and past histories they
share. Also, with the Boston Celtics rumored to have
made an offer before the 2015-2016 season trade deadline, you can expect them
to be in on the fray to potentially offer more picks and players than
the Wolves can this summer.
With the reasons stated above, I
struggle to see a trade happening between the Wolves and the Bulls. The Wolves are primed to be
very good for a long time, they should not look for the shortcut in
Butler. However, if the Wolves were able to obtain Butler using the
5th and Shabazz Muhammad or Gorgui Dieng, I would not
hesitate to pull the trigger on such a deal/trade.
Of course, the Bulls are in the Driver's
seat with Butler locked up for the next four years, and the longer
they wait getting closer to the NBA Draft, the more glamorous of
trade packages there will be. Look for the Wolves to make a call, but
when it's all said-and-done, I would expect the core will remain intact and the
bench unit will be fortified.