While reports indicate the Miami Heat are the frontrunners to land disgruntled star Jimmy Butler, don’t count out the Washington Wizards.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe, the Wizards are one of the teams that have “gauged the asking price” for Butler. There’s not much else reported about their interest or what an offer would look like, but perhaps this is why Minnesota is waiting on Miami. The longer the wait, the more likely another team decides to call again.
The franchise has reportedly been interested in Butler since the 2011 NBA Draft. Now, Ira Winderman revealed why Washington could be the most fascinating potential mystery team in the sweepstakes (via WQAM Sports Radio):
“Last week, I thought the Heat were out of it because Otto Porter was a name that got floated. Except for this reason: Jimmy Butler doesn’t want to play with the Wizards and won’t stay here beyond this contract, he says … It would be a great trade for Thibs because you get a real, ready-to-go fill-in player. And you can make an argument that by bringing in someone like Jimmy Butler, you’re sort of creating a bit of a different Big 3 for the moment [in Washington]. I think they’re the sleeper. I think that’s the other team.”
Winderman wondered whether or not the Wizards would be willing to give up Porter for a rental. For the Timberwolves, however, he could be a decent complementary piece to allow Karl-Anthony Towns to flourish as the main focus without taking away his touches.
That was one of the main reasons why it was hard for Towns to coexist with Butler.
Meanwhile, Washington’s John Wall told reporters that the team needed a third star alongside him and Bradley Beal if they were going to compete for the title. While this might have been considered disrespectful to Porter, the truth is that the former No. 3 overall pick might project as an above average player at best.
Meanwhile, the thought of losing Porter is not all that crazy, especially with the way his current contract breaks down. As it stands now, the wing is owed a cumbersome $81.8 million over the next three seasons.
The front office would be unable to offer a reasonable contract extension to Kelly Oubre Jr. (or sign anyone else without going deep into the luxury tax) considering they will pay Wall, Beal and Porter a combined $92 million during the 2019-20 season.
With the current setup, they’re stuck in limbo and can’t change their core with all of their cap space used on a team that has not proven much. Lowe recently spoke about why it’s worth consideration for Washington – even if Butler does not re-sign (via ESPN):
“If Butler walks, getting off Porter’s salary and opening some breathing room – even if Porter is a really good complementary player – eases the pain. It might be worth the risk.”
The most interesting consideration would be a trio of Butler alongside Wall and Beal. It would give the Wizards a legitimate, fighting chance to win the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James plays in the West.
Washington would have a one-year trial to see how this trio could compete in the East, especially as the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers continue to develop their young stars. USA TODAY’s Jeff Zilgitt reported that it’s “not out of the question” that the four-time All-Star would be willing to return to the squad once his contract is set to expire at the end of the season.
If it doesn’t work out, they no longer have to pay Porter a max contract and in the process, it doesn’t look like they’re blowing it up or tanking like it would if they traded Wall or Beal.
This presents as the exact opposite, showing that they have a winning mindset, willing to take a gamble on contending. And if it failed, they have an easy reset button with more future money to spend.