As the Timberwolves prepare to open training camp Tuesday, they are working to deal All-Star Jimmy Butler, who requested a trade last week.
A source close to the negotiations told the Star Tribune on Saturday that owner Glen Taylor and Tom Thibodeau, the head coach and president of basketball operations, are working to move Butler after Thibodeau was initially hesitant to do so.
According to the source, Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, is referring teams interested in making a trade to work through Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden. It was previously reported that Taylor was running negotiations because he favored a trade while Thibodeau was resistant to the idea, but the source said that is not the case. Taylor spoke with Thibodeau and Layden recently to get everybody on the same page, the source said.
While the Wolves pondered life without one star, they were able to secure the services of another franchise cornerstone late Saturday by signing Karl-Anthony Towns to a five-year extension worth about $190 million. By doing so, they are aligning the future with the 22-year-old Towns as the 29-year-old Butler appears to be on his way out.
There were reports that Towns was waiting to see what would happen with Butler, since Towns and Butler reportedly have a strained relationship. With the organization committed to dealing Butler, a deal for Towns, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft, became easier to complete, even if the Wolves had leverage since Towns could only become a restricted free agent after this season.
The Wolves would like to get a deal for Butler done quickly, but the timing of his request so close to the start of the season causes complications. Previously, ESPN reported and a source told the Star Tribune that Thibodeau was directing Layden to shut down trade calls before teams could make an offer.
But Butler's request on Tuesday at a meeting in Los Angeles was also not the first time Butler informed Thibodeau of his desire to continue his career elsewhere, another source close to the situation said.
A team source said the Timberwolves are not expecting Butler to report for media day on Monday at Target Center.
Butler has given the Wolves a list of three teams he would like to play for — the Nets, Clippers and Knicks. But he is open to going to and signing a new deal with another team depending on how willing it is to acquire him and get a deal done.
Butler can become a free agent in July 2019 by opting out of his current deal and would like to sign a maximum five-year deal worth $190 million with a new team. If he has to play out the season with the Wolves, the most a new team can offer him is a four-year, $141 million deal.
Dealing Butler would be hard for the Wolves to swallow in the short term, and it may mean the difference between missing and making the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference. But failing to deal Butler when he has assured the Wolves he will walk in free agency would hamper the Wolves in the long term.
Butler became eligible to renegotiate his contract starting July 9. That was the three-year anniversary of his signing his last deal in Chicago (his former team), and salary rules dictate contracts of four or more years can be renegotiated at that point.
Based on an analysis of the Wolves' salary cap, they would have needed to trim about $30 million from their existing payroll to bump Butler up to the maximum salary he is eligible for this season — which would have enabled them to give him a five-year, $177.2 million extension this summer.
The Wolves did not renegotiate Butler's deal and instead offered Butler a four-year, $110 million extension, which he turned down. A source said Butler's frustration with Towns and Andrew Wiggins — not the Wolves' unwillingness to renegotiate his deal — is the motivating factor behind his request to leave Minnesota.
It's unclear what the Wolves would be able to get in return for Butler if they trade him, but it could be challenging for the Wolves to generate a trade market this close to the start of the season.