The Knicks Need to Stay Away from the Jimmy Butler Sweepstakes
Less than a week to training camp and NBA media days, NBA Insider Shams Charania set the basketball world in a frenzy yesterday afternoon when he first reported the news that Minnesota guard Jimmy Butler requested a trade and to part ways from Tom Thibodeau and the Timberwolves.
As the dust settled and more details came out surrounding the meeting, Butler gave the Timberwolves his three preferred teams - the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Knicks.
All three front offices must have perked up when they heard the news as a player ESPN just ranked as the 14th best player headed into 2019 for their top 100 rankings expressed interest in joining their respective organizations. That is significant news for three franchises that need a star to make the next step as an organization. If one of these three teams acquire a player like Butler, it would almost certainly ensure that they would be a playoff team this season. All three are currently projected to miss the playoffs.
Acquiring Butler comes with a price and certainly risk. First, Butler is 29 and wants a max contract. There are pros and cons for trading for a player like Butler and given where the Knicks currently sit as a franchise, the cons outweigh the pros.
The Knicks are simply not in a situation to make a trade like this. The best play is continued patience and to not trade away younger players and future assets, especially for a player you can sign as a free agent the next summer.
Knicks’ President Steve Mills was asked last week about the teams approach to trades for players before they enter free agency.
“We’re going to build this team the right way and what we’re not going to do is trade away assets to get a guy that we can get on our own later.”
A perfect response that should be music to Knicks’ fans ears. Sure, you run the risk of Butler potentially being traded and signing an extension before he hits free agency and you lose all hope of signing him. But that’s a risk you must be willing to take. Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox and the 2019 first round draft pick are way too valuable to move for a piece that does not bring you closer to a championship.
With uncertainty surrounding Porzingis’ return from a torn ACL and $30 million dollars tied up in Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah over the next two years, the Knicks need to continue the path of developing younger players and draft picks while developing financial flexibility for future seasons.
There’s a time and a place for franchises to make big moves to jump-start the fan base and energize the team. That moment is not now for the Knicks and they’d be wise to sit out the Butler sweepstakes unless Minnesota presented an offer that was too good to refuse.
Staying out of the sweepstakes this time around would be the best thing going forward for the franchise.