In the days since Minnesota guard Jimmy Butler reportedly requested a trade, the Timberwolves have been fielding calls from teams looking to add the four-time All-Star.
The message from Minnesota’s front office has been the same each time — the Timberwolves intend to keep their star forward, according to ESPN.
But ESPN also reported that owner Glen Taylor is expected to be involved in any discussions about a potential trade, and is far more willing to unload Butler than the front office. ESPN reported later Friday that Taylor told others at the Board of Governors meeting that Butler is available and inquiries should come through Taylor, if necessary.
“The owner’s trading him,” a Board of Governors attendee told ESPN. “That was made clear. It’s just a matter of when.”
The later report from ESPN added that the disconnect between Taylor and the front office has other teams believing a dispute between Taylor and team president and head coach Tom Thibodeau — who oversees general manager Scott Layden — could be coming regarding the Butler situation. Many at Friday’s meeting believe Taylor wants to reach a resolution regarding Butler’s request quickly, per ESPN.
The Athletic, which first reported the trade request, said that Butler gave the Timberwolves a list of teams he would consider signing with for the long term and told Thibodeau he would leave in free agency next summer. Thibodeau has no interest in trading Butler.
Butler, 29, is said to favor the Los Angeles Clippers, but also reportedly has interest in the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. All three teams will have maximum salary slots available next season.
Butler’s interest in the Clippers is fueled in part because Los Angeles will have two max contract slots available in July, ESPN reported, citing league sources. The second vacancy could go to All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, who could be a free agent next summer after his trade from San Antonio to Toronto two months ago.
Taylor, who has overseen trades of All-Stars Kevin Love and Kevin Garnett out of Minnesota, would consider any trade in which the return is high and the Wolves’ partner in the deal is willing to take on significant salary.
Various rumors over the past year have suggested Butler would also be interested in teaming up with Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, who could be a free agent after this season as well.
Butler joined Minnesota in a trade with the Chicago Bulls in June 2017. He played in 59 games for the Timberwolves last season, averaging 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
Butler is entering the fourth season of a five-year, $92.3 million contract he signed with Chicago in 2015, but he can enter the free agent market next summer by opting out of the final year. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $18.7 million in 2018-19.
In July, Butler reportedly turned down Minnesota’s four-year extension offer worth $110 million.
A first-round draft pick in 2011, Butler was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2014-15. He has made the All-NBA Third Team twice and the All-Defensive Second Team four times.
—Field Level Media