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Five Potential Clippers’ Trade Packages for Jimmy Butler

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Here’s a look at five potential trades that could nab the Clippers superstar wing Jimmy Butler.

Minnesota Timberwoves v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Yesterday, news came out that Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves’ superstar wing, wants a trade. His apparent issues with franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns and his impending free agency next summer means a trade will probably happen sooner rather than later. In good news for the Clippers, they were listed as one of three teams with whom Butler would sign an extension—and as the preferred option of those three. The Clippers are well and truly in the hunt for Butler, who’s exactly the type of star that Steve Ballmer, Jerry West, and Lawrence Frank are looking for.

There are some issues with Butler. He’s 29, so he’d be almost 30 next summer when the Clippers would presumably sign him to an extension. That’s almost two years older than Blake Griffin was last summer, and Butler has many of the same issues as Blake. While Butler is a better player at this point in their respective careers, he’s firmly in his prime, has dealt with many injuries over the years, has a ton of minutes weighing him down, and would seem to be a somewhat questionable teammate. The hope would be that his star power would lead to another big name signing in free agency in 2019, someone along the lines of Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving. Their primes would also coincide with the inevitable slowing of the Warriors and the aging of the Rockets, leaving a conceivable window for the Clippers to contend once more. Trading for him is a risk, but it’s one easily worth taking. Here’s a look at five trade packages the Clippers could offer for him.

First, however, there are some restrictions to the trades. Neither team can trade players who were signed this summer until three months have passed or until December 15, whichever is later (which for all these players means December 15). Since I believe Butler will be traded before then, that means the following players won’t be involved in the trades:

Wolves: Anthony Tolliver, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, James Nunnally

Clippers: Avery Bradley, Luc Mbah a Moute, Mike Scott, Montrezl Harrell, Tyrone Wallace

All that out of the way, let’s dive into some trades!

Trade 1/1a: The Godfather Offer

Clippers send: Tobias Harris, Jerome Robinson, 2022 lottery protected 1st, and Sindarius Thornwell

Or: Swap Robinson and Thornwell for Lou Williams

Timberwolves send: Jimmy Butler

Either of these offers should be good enough to get almost immediate acceptances from Minnesota. Considering the lack of leverage they have due to Butler’s desire to leave and his conflict with Towns, receiving a fringe All-Star in Tobias Harris plus other quality assets is a fantastic return. Harris would be able to step into Butler’s shoes as the starting small forward, and in some ways, his ability to play off-ball and stretch the floor might actually work better with Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague. If the Wolves are looking to rebuild, they would also be adding a rookie lottery pick in Jerome Robinson who could juice up their bench, as well as a capable rotation wing with upside in Thornwell. If the Wolves would rather remain in the playoff hunt for the next couple years, Lou Williams would be a massive addition to their offense. He was a near-All Star last season, and would be able to carry the offense when Towns and Harris are sitting. The cherry on top is a future 1st round draft pick.

From the Clippers’ perspective, this is a ton to give up. I think they only do this trade if they are convinced of three things. First, Butler would have to provide very strong reassurances he would re-sign next summer. Second, while he couldn’t provide actual information on free agent destinations, he could at least give some confirmation that other stars would be willing to join him in LA. Third, the Clippers would have to know that Butler’s issues with teammates in Chicago and Minnesota are not as severe as they seem, or that they wouldn’t transfer to LA. The last is what I’m sure the Clippers are working on now, scouring the NBA landscape for reports on Butler’s qualities as a person and teammate. If all three checkboxes are met, only then do I believe the Clippers would be willing to give up the farm. And even then, it might not be quite this much.

Trade 2: The Most Obvious Package

Clippers send: Danilo Gallinari, Jerome Robinson, Jawun Evans, lottery protected 2022 first round pick

Timberwolves send: Jimmy Butler, Justin Patton

The Clippers do not want to part with Tobias Harris. He would be a terrific partner for Jimmy Butler, and is the exact kind of player and person they value. If the Clippers firmly resist trading him for Butler, I think this trade is a solid alternative. Gallinari is still a capable NBA starter whom would fit well in the Wolves starting lineup. If healthy, he provides a secondary creating option and floor spacing, things the Wolves need. Jawun Evans is a potential backup point guard of the future behind Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones, neither of whom would seem to be long for the Wolves, for different reasons. And Robinson and the first round pick are quality assets that would help the Wolves’ rebuild alongside Towns and Wiggins.

Additionally, the Clippers would take on the salary of Patton, who will miss much of this year with an injury, and whose career is in question due to his foot problems. He would, however, be a nice flier for the Clippers, especially since Marcin Gortat and Boban Marjanovic’s contracts expire next summer. This would be a deal I think the Clippers would have to take if it’s on the table, even though they like Robinson a lot.

Trade 3: The Wolves Remain Competitive Package

Clippers send: Lou Williams, Pat Beverley, Wes Johnson, 2019 and 2020 second round picks

Timberwolves send: Jimmy Butler, Justin Patton

If the Wolves want to stay competitive rather than rebuild, this is the package for them. Pat Beverley would replace Butler’s defense and toughness, but provide stronger leadership and better mentorship for the Wolves’ young guys. He’s also a perfect fit for Thibs, if Thibs stays on as coach. Beverley would slide into the starting guard role alongside Jeff Teague, and I think they would complement each other nicely, albeit giving up some size on the perimeter. Lou Williams would replace Butler’s pure scoring and shot-creation, and would be able to pair nicely with Tyus Jones off the Wolves’ bench as the best reserve backcourt duo in the NBA. Wes Johnson is at least a respectable rotation player for the Wolves at the forward positions, a place where they’re currently thin. And the second round picks round out the deal.

This too, is a lot for the Clippers to give up, but they’re also sacrificing little of their long-term future in this deal. I’m not sure they’d be all that much better in the 2018-2019 season, but Butler’s presence would hopefully still be enough to attract free agents, and possibly drag the Clippers to the 8th seed. This doesn’t provide as much risk for the Clippers, as it actually sets them up better for a rebuild if things blow up than the other trades.

Trade 4: The Clippers Take on Money Package

Clippers send: Lou Williams, Pat Beverley, Wes Johnson, Marcin Gortat, 2020 second round pick

Timberwolves send: Jimmy Butler, Gorgui Dieng

This is similar to the previous trade, but with the Gortat-Dieng swap added. The Wolves would get slightly worse at backup center, but would get off Dieng’s long and overpriced deal, setting themselves up for much more cap room next summer. The Clippers would upgrade their starting center spot and theoretically lock it up for years to come, but they’re averse to adding longterm money, so I’m not sure this would be a go for them.

Trade 5: The Three-Team Trade

Clippers send: Marcin Gortat, Jerome Robinson, Milos Teodosic, 2019 second round pick, 2020 second round pick

Clippers receive: Jimmy Butler

Timberwolves send: Jimmy Butler, Justin Patton

Timberwolves receive: Marcin Gortat, Dragan Bender, Jerome Robinson, Davon Reed, Clippers 2019 second round pick

Suns send: Dragan Bender, Davon Reed

Suns receive: Milos Teodosic, Justin Patton, Clippers 2020 second round pick

Three-team deals rarely get done. And this is a large, complicated deal. But including the Suns gets more young players to the Wolves for their rebuild, and also means the Clippers have to give up less of their current roster. This trade would create a Clippers’ team that is almost a lock for a playoff spot barring severe injury or chemistry issues, and wouldn’t even give up that much of their future assets in the process (though a 2022 protected 1st could be traded to the Wolves instead of the 2nd, I suppose). The Wolves stock up on young players, with Dragan Bender being a particularly intriguing piece as a guy who might succeed on a different roster and without the burdens of being the 4th pick for the Suns. The Suns would get their starting point guard for the 2018-2019 season, take a flier on Patton, and would move on from Bender, whom has been so disappointing for them. I think their part of the deal is the weakest, probably, but maybe some other piece could go to them to make up for their departures.

What do you think? Which of these trades do you think is the most fair, and which would you most prefer for the Clippers to make?