Los Angeles Clippers fans may be eager for a Jimmy Butler trade to go down, but it may be in the team’s best interest to not make any move for the All-Star.
Jimmy Butler made it known that he wants out of Minnesota on Tuesday. The All-Star guard supposedly turned in a list of teams he would re-sign with if traded to which included the Los Angeles Clippers. While fans are speculating on possible trade packages to bring him to LA, it may be better for the franchise to just stand pat.
Where the Clippers currently stand
The summer of 2019 has been the focus of the front office ever since Lawrence Frank, Michael Winger and Jerry West teamed up. Notable players, including Butler, are all slated to be unrestricted free agents.
With some smart cap maneuvering, the Clippers potentially have the space to sign two max-contract level players in 2019. Tobias Harris, Patrick Beverley, Marcin Gortat, Wesley Johnson, Milos Teodosic, Mike Scott and Luc Mbah a Moute will all be free agents.
While they are free agents, in order to get space for the two max players, the Clippers would have to renounce most of, if not all, of their bird rights which means they cannot be signed over the cap.
2019 Draft Pick
The Clippers 2019 draft pick is owed to the Boston Celtics via the Memphis Grizzlies. If you remember a few years back, this pick was moved in order to get Jeff Green. While that didn’t work out, there is a chance the Clippers can still hang onto the pick.
It is lottery protected, so assuming the Clippers finish outside of the playoffs this season, the pick stays with them and does not convey to Boston. Instead, the pick turns into a 2022 second rounder.
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So what does this mean in regards to Jimmy Butler?
Well, it means a few of things. Jimmy Butler has already made it clear that he wants to sign with the Clippers with the knowledge that the team can sign another big name player next summer.
While it would work out better for him financially to get traded, (his bird rights would transfer, leading to a larger contract), the Clippers could still sign him outright to a max deal without losing any assets. It would also mean they would only commit to four years of Butler (who just turned 29-years-old) as opposed to five.
Meanwhile, if the Clippers have not traded for Butler, odds are they don’t make the playoffs and thus keep their lottery protected first round pick. At this point, they could try to shop the lotto pick alongside Danilo Gallinari in order to free themselves more cap space.
The goal here would be to move Gallo’s money in order to re-sign as many players as possible without going over the hard cap. Assuming Tobias Harris could be convinced to stay next summer, the Clippers could have their own big three featuring Butler, Harris and another star.
By keeping Harris, along with other pieces in Lou Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montrezl Harrell and Jerome Robinson, the Clippers would possess a solid rotational group. Sure, you give up a draft pick, but by bringing in star players your time frame gets switched to a ‘win now’ mode.
This isn’t to say not trading for Butler doesn’t come with some risk. He has already said there are at least two other teams he would consider re-signing with if traded to.
If the Clippers aren’t active on the market, another franchise could slide in and get Butler. They would have a year to convince him to stay and re-sign, similarly to what Toronto is trying with Kawhi Leonard. While Butler seems to know where he wants to go, an NBA season is long and he could fall in love with somewhere else.
Waiting would hinge on the front office’s belief in their ability to sucessfully recruit Butler in the summer. If they don’t trade now and cannot land a meeting, then they have to go all in on rebuilding.
So, is it to risk losing next summers’ draft pick along with other players in order to get Butler in a guaranteed spot with the team? Or would you wait and play the odds that he will at the very least have a meeting with you in the summer? The front office will have some serious thinking to do in the coming days as they evaluate both their current position and the future.
It’s a tough position to be in for the Clippers. Keep checking back here and on Twitter as we follow this saga and see how everything shakes out!