Predicting the Next Jimmy Butler Situation in the NBA
Jimmy Butler is at the time of this writing, still with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But that’s likely to change soon. The four-time All-Star wants out in Minny.
Butler joins a long list of elite NBA players who have demanded or forced a trade over the years. From Kyrie Irving and Paul George to Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, it’s not unheard of for a superstar to exercise his pre-agency by holding out from one team until he’s traded to a new one.
These sorts of divorces can be spotted a mile away, but other times they pop-up relatively out of the blue. As such, it can be hard to know when a star player’s discontent will boil over. But surely we can speculate.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Portland’s marque point guard has been mostly all smiles during his six years in the NBA. But having just turned 28, Damian Lillard is decidedly in his prime, and his Trail Blazers seem to be a few steps away from contention.
Lillard is a proactive guy and a leader. He met with Blazers owner Paul Allen to discuss the team’s future. By all accounts it was a productive sit-down, and despite although Portland isn’t among the NBA’s most imposing teams, Lillard seems at peace.
Instead of competitiveness, it seems his organization’s attitude and professionalism would be the tipping point in requesting a trade.
"If a situation ever were to come up where I felt like I wasn't valued ... then that would be the time (to ask for a trade) but I don't feel that way."
We know that mutual respect can turn south in a hurry in the NBA. What if Portland explored trade options, resulting in an angry Lillard. That’s what led to Kyrie Irving’s departure in Cleveland.
I’m not saying Lillard is a malcontent, or fussy, or a flight risk. No one on this list seems to be. But Portland seems destined for another few years of turbulence, and Lillard’s star and force of personality burn bright. There’s a recipe for disaster brewing up in Oregon.
Jaylen Brown is not in the same tier as Damian Lillard, at least not yet anyway. The Cal product is heading into just his third season as a pro, although high-profile stints in the Eastern Conference Finals have boosted his celebrity status.
Therein lies the problem. He’s a former No. 3 overall pick and a damn good player. Whether he was in Paris with James Harden and Russell Westbrook, or at charity events with Isiah Thomas and Bill Russell, Brown spent his summer in the spotlight. On this loaded Celtics team, however, he’ll be a fourth or even fifth option on offense.
All signs coming from Boston seem to point toward a happy lockerroom. Still, if anyone is the odd man out in Beantown, it seems probable that it’d be young Jaylen Brown.
The Washington Wizards are an enigma to me. There’s plenty of talent to go around, but the team just can’t seem to get over the hump. Certainly bringing in Dwight Howard is not a surefire remedy to a team with a bit of a stink.
John Wall has presided over a few unhappy locker rooms during his career. Even if the Wizards have a winning record this season, it’s quite possible things won’t be particularly happy in Washington.
The Wizards feel like a ticking time-bomb of failed expectations. Sure, Scott Brooks and Dwight Howard are worthy scapegoats, but I could see the team front office consider making a more dramatic move in the face of prolonged struggle.
John Wall is no fool. Should the above begin to pan out, he and his camp could get ahead of the curve and demand a trade. Why would he stay on a sinking ship, especially if all signs point toward his athleticism beginning to decline?
On Wizards Media Day this week, Wall stated his top goal is to win a championship, suggesting his career would be “a failure” without a ring. Is Washington really poised to win an NBA title?
Marc Gasol will turn 34 this season, his 11th in the NBA. He’s an elite talent, no doubt, but he is no spring chicken.
He spent Grizzlies Media Day dismissing Memphis’ abysmal injury woes last year and repeatedly stating how excited he is to move forward. I can’t blame him; there’s a lot of potential with this Grizzlies team, though health concerns can’t be dismissed.
The best case scenario for Memphis is a bright one. This club can compete in the very crowded Western Conference, and Gasol should be a big part of that equation.
I do, however, wonder when and if the Grizzlies go nuclear and tear it all down. They’re one or two injuries away from slipping into NBA’s lottery purgatory. Memphis simply isn’t a free agency destination. The team will need to sell high on its best assets to ensure a bright next chapter.
Like Lillard, Gasol could quickly become upset with possible trade rumors. Or perhaps another losing season will get to the Spaniard. Either way, it’s possible Gasol seeks a change of scenery this season.
At the end of the day, the correct answer to this thought experiment was always Anthony Davis. There’s a few reasons for this.
Davis is eligible for a monster extension should he sign an extension with the Pelicans, and he’s still under contract for two more years in NOLA. Like Jimmy Butler, however, AD may want to join a different team before the summer of 2020 so this new team can offer Davis a full five year super-max contract. Otherwise, he’d only be able to ink a four year deal in traditional free agency.
Therein lies a huge incentive to force a trade, especially under the existing CBA. If a player can end up on a desired team early, he’s in-line for a better contract. Not only does Davis surely know this, but he just signed with LeBron James’ Klutch Sports. His representatives practically wrote the book on player empowerment.
It’s also worth noting that while the Pelicans’ path to bring in impact superstars is cloudy, there’s a number of high-profile teams and markets ready to do so. The Lakers, the Nets, the Knicks, the Celtics, and several other clubs could quite easily accommodate Davis and surround him with championship caliber talent.
Until Davis signs an extension with NOLA, rumors and speculation will swirl. He’s too tantalizing a talent to ignore. There’s little doubt he could bring the Pelicans to his knees if he wished, ushering in yet another blockbuster NBA trade.