Wolves guard Jimmy Butler reportedly has asked to be traded by the Timberwolves, and according to ESPN.com Butler wants to be dealt to the Nets, Knicks or Clippers. Given those parameters, here are the four directions the Timberwolves could go:
1) Work a two-team deal with one of Butler’s preferred trading partners. The problem with that is the Knicks and Clippers are thin on desirable assets and the Nets have none. The Knicks have Kristaps Porzingis, but he is unlikely to be moved. The Clippers could offer useful players such as Lou Williams and/or Tobias Harris, but neither seem like game-changers.
2) Work a three-team deal with one of Butler’s preferred trading partners. If they can get another team involved — one that has a more desirable player to send to the Wolves and also covets the cap space a team such as the Nets could offer via expiring contracts — the pieces might fit and present the Wolves with a better option. Teams such as Portland (CJ McCollum?).
3) Trade Butler to whatever team will give them the best package in return, regardless of what Butler wants. ESPN’s report did indicate Butler’s list of potential teams he would sign an extension with after being traded could grow, which could help a deal materialize, but regardless of that the Wolves don’t need to do Butler a favor. If they could find a team willing to trade for Butler in hopes of convincing him to stay — as the Thunder successfully did with Paul George — the Wolves might be able to make a better deal. A team such as the 76ers, with assets and championship hopes, could be a fit.
4) Decline to trade Butler and play out the season — or at least the start of the season, leading up to the trade deadline — in hopes of convincing Butler that he will want to stay. The risk there is that if it doesn’t work, Butler could leave in free agency next year without anything coming back in return.