After demanding a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jimmy Butler reportedly prefers to be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. What does that mean for next summer?
Considering that Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the four-time All-Star wants to join the Clippers over the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks (who were also on his wish list), it’s worth considering why. Butler reportedly likes that the Clippers will have free agency slots for two maximum contracts and that another star could arrive next summer (via ESPN):
“The Clippers have two max contract slots available in July, and are emerging as a front-runner for Toronto’s All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard when he becomes a free agent in July, league sources said.”
Woj reports that the Clippers are a “front-runner” for Leonard, making them even more enticing for Butler, who seems determined to contend. The Athletic’s Shams Charania has said that the Nets and Clippers are more motivated to land Butler than the Knicks. While both New York and Brooklyn will also have the cap space to sign another star alongside Butler next offseason, it’s particularly newsworthy that Los Angeles is apparently the front-runner for Leonard next summer.
Earlier this offseason, Yahoo’s Chris Haynes noted Leonard was a high priority for the Clippers. Leonard reportedly planned to tell teams that his intention was to sign in Los Angeles next offseason. They were one of the several teams to make an offer for Leonard before he was eventually traded to the Toronto Raptors.
This certainly makes Butler’s interest in the Clippers particularly interesting. But the real question is whether or not the front office in Los Angeles would consider sacrificing assets knowing they could potentially sign both Butler and Leonard outright as free agents next summer. Leonard could always return to the Raptors, but it appears the Clippers are the current favorites.
Here is how Kevin O’Connor recently described the situation (via The Ringer):
“Los Angeles has always been Butler’s top choice if he was to leave or be traded by Minnesota, according to league sources. But the Clippers should ask the same question as the New York teams: What’s the rush? They could also just wait for next summer without compromising their future. It would seem like a philosophical about-face, after trading another oft-injured star in Blake Griffin, to trade young pieces for Butler. Only a bargain makes sense.”
Butler was reportedly interested in playing alongside Boston’s Kyrie Irving, who will also become a free agent next summer. However, it’s unclear whether Irving is even seriously considering leaving Boston.
The idea of creating a team to rival LeBron James in Los Angeles might be particularly appealing to both Butler and Leonard. Butler is reportedly not interested in playing alongside James.
If the Wolves want veterans who can keep the team in playoff contention, the most likely players that the Clippers would offer include veterans Tobias Harris, Patrick Beverley or Danilo Gallinari. They can also have younger, developing talents like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson and Tyrone Wallace, but it remains to be seen if L.A. would part with these players. O’Connor does not think that Gilgeous-Alexander would be included in such a trade.
As such, a future squad highlighted by Gilgeous-Alexander with Butler and Leonard on the perimeter is certain to contend in the Western Conference.