Several teams have been linked to Jimmy Butler since he informed the Minnesota Timberwolves that he’d like to be traded, but one serious dark horse to land the four-time All-Star is the Toronto Raptors.
The idea makes even more sense after learning that Kyle Lowry is reportedly unhappy with the team after they traded away his best friend, DeMar DeRozan. The 32-year-old point guard didn’t talk to any of the Raptors’ decision-makers over the last three months.
Lowry also avoided Masai Ujiri, the Raptors’ president of basketball operations, as noted by Josh Lewenberg. (via TSN):
“Lowry had also been dodging calls and texts from team officials, including president Masai Ujiri and new head coach Nick Nurse, who Lowry said he only spoke with briefly right after Nurse was promoted in June. Meanwhile, Lowry and Kawhi Leonard didn’t speak until Monday morning.”
Nurse has been an assistant coach with the Raptors since 2013, so Lowry is certainly familiar with the new head coach in Toronto.
But it’s definitely worth noting that Lowry was ignoring him and Ujiri when they both tried reaching out to him this offseason.
Lowry signed a three-year deal worth $100 million last summer and is set to collect $31 million this season. That makes it awfully challenging to find a team that could match his contract in a potential trade.
Paolo Uggetti recently suggested that Ujiri should swing for the fences and try to land Butler (via The Ringer):
“With discord brewing in Minnesota, it could be the perfect time for Ujiri to step in. An offer that includes another All-Star player (ahem, Lowry), and a young guy who isn’t OG Anunoby, plus picks if needed, could do the trick. Which team could top a package headlined by one of the league’s best point guards—who just so happens to be the sort of salty, pitbull defender that Thibs loves—especially with Butler able to walk at the end of the season?”
This would pair new Toronto superstar Kawhi Leonard with Butler, which is a duo that could reportedly end up on the same team since both players are unrestricted free agents next summer. Plus, the Raptors have a starting-caliber point guard in either Fred VanVleet or Delon Wright behind Lowry on the depth chart. Plus, the two-way upside with Butler and Leonard on offense and defense would make them one of the best one-two punches in the NBA.
But matching the salaries on such a deal would be tough, as Lowry will make significantly more than Butler this year. Toronto would need to take on the contract of Gorgui Dieng if they sent out Lowry, which the Raptors probably wouldn’t want.
A move to Toronto would give Butler a chance to contend during the 2018-19 season and perhaps even longer if he re-signs. Meanwhile, Minnesota gets back another All-Star to play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins along with other attractive assets like a young player and a draft pick. This seems like a deal that could potentially make sense for both sides.