No one really knows exactly what’s going on in Minnesota. But if Jimmy Butler decides to go the way of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard and force a trade out of the twin cities, could the Blazers provide enough to interest the Wolves?
The Ringer has included the Blazers in a list of five teams that would suit the former Most Improved Player if his discussions with Minnesota management further disintegrate to the point of no return.
Now Butler has two years and $40,287,406 left on his contract, however he has a player option for the 2019-20 season, which he would almost certainly decline knowing he could earn more as a free agent. So there is the risk of him leaving in less than 12 months.
Butler, a genuine two-way option, is in his prime at age 29, last season making the All-Star game, All-NBA Third Team and All-Defensive Second Team. Adding him to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum delivers the Blazers a third option and a second All Star, and would go a long way to satisfying the point guard’s need for improvement.
The only red flag President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey would need to consider would be the perceived concerns surrounding Butler’s unhappiness with the Wolves – the work ethic of his young star teammate Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns appears to be the future of the franchise and would undoubtedly be ownshership’s first priority over Butler as well as Coach and Team President Tom Thibodeau.
Portland’s Lillard-led Blazers team appears to have no such ethics issue, boasting a solid culture and a focus on winning - it just needs talent and roster balance.
If Butler’s meetings with Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden don’t address these issues, Wolves management will continue to lose leverage and bargaining power when dealing with potential trade partners interested in Butler.
So if Olshey decides to throw Portland’s hat into the ring – and he should – who could the Blazers be prepared to part with to get the Wolves talking?
More importantly, can the Blazers deliver a package without sacrificing Lillard or McCollum?
Yes, it is possible but a number of factors would need to be weighed up, for instance, you’d have to wonder if Minnesota would happily deal with a division rival.
But given a Butler trade would likely mean a one-year rental, teams will be less likely to offer a lot and while a number of franchises might be interested, Portland appears to have assets that might be appealing.
Below are a few possibilities that might be considered right now. The Blazers might be able to get away with offering less if the Timberwolf tension continues.
Portland receives: Butler
Minnesota receives: Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, Zach Collins, top 10 protected 2019 first round pick
Portland adds Butler to its dynamic backcourt, creating a genuine big three. The issue for Portland is that this deal severely cuts into the team’s forward depth leaving only Butler, Turner, Layman and Swanigan. It does, however, open up two roster spots, which can be filled by veteran minimum contracts.
The Wolves get a top 10 protected pick, a young big man with huge potential and Aminu in a contract year. Harkless does have some currency around the league, based purely on what he is capable of but still hasn’t quite delivered.
Portland receives: Butler, Gorgui Dieng
Minnesota receives: Aminu, Harkless, Anfernee Simons, Meyers Leonard, lottery protected 2019 first round pick
Again, the Blazers add Butler but also Dieng, who while is not playing up to his contract - which has three years remaining - is a serviceable big man who can provide front court depth. This deal does, however, plunge the team $5.5 million deeper into the luxury tax.
The Wolves get a slightly more protected pick, a young guard with huge potential, Aminu, Harkless and Leonard, who is on a cheaper and shorter contract than Dieng.
And for argument’s sake, one option that includes McCollum.
Portland receives: Butler, Taj Gibson
Minnesota receives CJ McCollum, Harkless
Portland gets Butler and veteran power forward Gibson, solidifying two starting positions that have been the team’s weakness since the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum three years ago. This would open a spot at starting shooting guard – but with the Blazers’ plethora of guards this can surely be addressed.
Minnesota gets a borderline All-Star in McCollum and starting caliber small forward, keeping them relevant and capable of contending for the playoffs.
Which deal would you do?
This poll is closed
Butler for Aminu, Harkless, Collins and a top 10-protected 2019 first
Butler and Dieng for Aminu, Harkless, Simons, Leonard and a lottery-protected 2019 first
Butler and Gibson for McCollum and Harkless