All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler wants to be traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Would the Portland Trail Blazers be the right destination for him?
As NBA training camps kick off in earnest, the Minnesota Timberwolves have a situation on their hands. All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler is disgruntled. Reports began surfacing last Wednesday that he met with head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and requested a trade.
Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden don’t want to trade Butler, preferring to play out the season with the four-time All-Star. However, owner Glen Taylor would rather have this controversy end as soon as possible, and has openly stated that Butler is on the market.
Butler’s destination wishlist includes the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. However, a number of others teams have made inquiries — and Layden will be initiating calls to others — for his services. ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski has indicated that the Portland Trail Blazers are among that bunch.
Jimmy Butler is an absolutely worthwhile player the Blazers should explore acquiring. It is interesting to consider what the team is willing to give up for him, considering they are a franchise well over the salary cap. NBC Sports Northwest‘s Dwight Jaynes indicates that sources say the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are completely off limits in any trade discussions.
Additionally, the likes of Jusuf Nurkic, Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas wouldn’t be involved since they just signed new contracts. They are ineligible to be traded until midseason. This would leave second-year player Zach Collins as the next best available asset. At least one of the big contracts between Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless would also likely be involved, along with a draft pick or two.
The chances are probably slim for Portland to acquire Jimmy Butler. However, if the front office is able to pull off the big deal, how would he fit in with the rest of this roster?
First and foremost, Butler would definitely be a net positive, as he is an All-Star caliber player that is proficient on both ends of the floor. The Blazers sorely need an upgrade at the small forward position, which is where Butler would start if McCollum remains. Butler’s presence would allow incumbent starter Maurice Harkless to shore up the bench with the type of production that made him so important to the Blazers’ midseason success last year.
Additionally, the big issue Butler has in Minnesota is his disconnect with younger teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. As someone who scrapped to become the player he is today, Butler hasn’t been able to get along with former blue chip prospects Towns and Wiggins, who have both had their effort and work ethic questioned over the years.
Butler may find refuge in Portland, which is led on the court by two players in Lillard and McCollum that hail from small schools and also had to work hard to gain recognition in the league. Additionally, he will be coached by Terry Stotts, someone who isn’t as hard-charging as Thibodeau, but has been able to get a lot out of his players on a nightly basis.
However, if you’re a basketball fan that enjoys uptempo hoops with great ball movement, you may end up with buyer’s remorse over Butler’s arrival. Portland finished 2017-18 ranked 19th in pace, according to Basketball-Reference. This can be attributed to the heavy dosages of isolation play from Lillard and McCollum, which sometimes led to stagnant offense.
Jimmy Butler also likes to go one-on-one against his opponents, as isolation plays accounted for 12.8 percent of his offense last season. That was his second-highest play type in half-court offenses behind pick-and-roll ball handler (31.2 percent). The dividends from isolation possessions are decent, as the 0.93 points per possession they produce put him in the 67th percentile.
Having another ball-dominant player on the court will certainly slow down the offense even more, keeping a team that was last in assists per game last year in the basement of that category.
On the bright side, Butler shot 35.0 percent from 3-point range last season, and 47.1 percent from beyond the arc during the playoffs. This should allow him to fit in with a roster full of players that can space the floor well with their perimeter shooting prowess.
Also, with Butler placing in the 77th percentile on pick-and-roll ball-handler plays, he would be a very positive contribution to the team’s inside-out game. It would be hard for defenses to determine if he’s going to shoot a 3, drive-and-kick or attack the basket head-on.
The Portland Trail Blazers weren’t on Jimmy Butler’s shortlist of teams he wants to be traded to, so it’s hard to tell if he’d be willing to sign an extension this summer if Rip City acquired him, or if he’d just be a one-year rental. Still, his presence would be a positive one culturally and schematically.
The Blazers would receive a much-needed upgrade at the small forward position. His two-way ability will help the team maintain its top-10 defense and give opponents another potent offensive weapon to deal with. His ball-dominant style could slow down the offense more, but his shooting ability and pick-and-roll proficiency should keep the floor well-spaced. Most importantly, he may get along better with fellow unheralded stars Lillard and McCollum than he did in Minnesota with Towns and Wiggins.
Jimmy Butler would be a very good fit with this Blazers roster and would greatly improve the team’s chances of competing in the tough Western Conference.