The Minnesota Timberwolves landed Jimmy Butler last offseason and the four-time All-Star will soon meet with Tom Thibodeau to discuss his future with the team.
The 29-year-old star is “seriously” contemplating his future with the organization after just one year in Minnesota. According to beat reporter Jon Krawczynski, the two will meet to have honest conversations about the next steps (via The Athletic):
“With the opening of training camp 10 days away, it appears the Wolves and Butler have reached a fork in the road. He can become an unrestricted free agent next summer and has long said that playing for a team that can contend for championships is his highest priority at this stage of his career.”
Krawczynski noted that Butler likely wants to hear Thibodeau’s vision for the upcoming season and beyond. Butler is reportedly the head coach’s greatest ally in the locker room. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes that the two will leave no stone unturned during their upcoming meeting.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe added that “things haven’t been great” with the Timberwolves since last summer, so it might not be smooth sailing. This is also a sentiment shared by Jamal Crawford, who played for the team last year. On The HoopsHype Podcast, Crawford made it clear he wouldn’t be returning to Minnesota and that things didn’t go as planned during his stint there. He’s mentioned his frustration in other interviews as well.
Here is what Wojnarowski said about the situation in his latest article (via ESPN):
“The Timberwolves are negotiating a rookie extension with [Karl-Anthony] Towns now that could be completed before the start of the season. Rival executives believe that Butler could come available on the market by the February trade deadline if Minnesota fears that it will lose him for nothing in July free agency.”
Thibodeau, who also serves as the president of basketball operations for the team, has also added familiar faces for Butler including Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and, most recently, Luol Deng.
But it’s unclear if those additions will help persuade Butler to stay considering none of those players are currently in their prime and Butler is trying to win now. In addition, Krawczynski alluded to chemistry issues between Butler and several of the other prominent figures in Minnesota.
It’s worth noting that Butler, 29, is not on the same career timeline as the 23-year-old Andrew Wiggins or the 22-year-old Karl Anthony-Towns. Rather than re-sign Butler, it may make more sense to build around the youth in Minnesota. Wojnarowski described Butler’s relationship with Towns as strained.
The deal that reunited Butler and Thibs last summer sent Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the pick that landed Lauri Markkanen to the Chicago Bulls. Trading Butler for upcoming first-round picks and players still on their rookie deal would also give Minnesota more room to pay Towns his max deal and help with the large sum owed to Wiggins.
If the Timberwolves could return a haul similar to the one they originally sent out for Butler, it could be a far better long-term option for the front office. There are several teams in win-now mode (e.g. Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors) that would want Butler and would likely pursue a deal. Many other teams would likely show interest in free agency as well.
Meanwhile, there have been reports about Butler’s interest in joining Kyrie Irving when the two become free agents next offseason. There’s so much room for change between then and now, but there’s reason to believe Butler wants out of Minnesota. If that becomes clear in his meeting with Thibodeau, the Wolves might as well see what teams would be willing to offer for Butler as a rental.