(CBS) The trade rumors regarding Bulls wing Jimmy Butler really heated up late Monday afternoon, with him being tied to three different teams. And none of them were the Celtics.
The Bulls and Timberwolves have had preliminary trade discussions regarding Butler, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday afternoon. The Suns — who hold the No. 4 overall pick in the draft Thursday — are another team to keep an eye on, the Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reported. And in more of a shocker, the Cavaliers are working on multi-team trade proposals in an attempt to acquire Butler, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported.
Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and Butler have long held great respect for each other, with Thibodeau coaching Butler during his first four seasons in Chicago and helping him lay the foundation to ascend to all-NBA status. Many league observers also believe that the competitive Thibodeau wants to accelerate Minnesota’s rebuilding process, and the 27-year-old Butler would fit that bill. A three-time All-Star, Butler is coming off a season in which he posted career-best marks of 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 45.5 percent. Minnesota has a large collection of young talent and the No. 7 pick in the draft.
After a loss in the NBA Finals to the Warriors, the Cavaliers are looking to add another star. They also have interest in Pacers forward Paul George, according to reports. But for Cleveland to acquire Butler in a trade, it would almost surely need a third team to be involved, because Kevin Love likely wouldn’t interest the Bulls, as they’d be committing to a full rebuild with any potential trade of Butler and want younger players and draft picks.
Butler has often found himself at the center of trade speculation regarding the Celtics, who on Monday finalized a deal in which they sent the No. 1 pick to the 76ers for the No. 3 overall pick and a future first-rounder. It remains unclear whether Boston intends to re-engage in trade talks surrounding Butler, as it did last year extensively on draft night and to a lesser extent this past February ahead of the trade deadline.
On multiple occasions, Bulls management has declined to commit to building around Butler as a franchise player, though it has also highly praised him. On May 4, a day after acknowledging Butler is a “different” type of player in coach Fred Hoiberg’s system than some other Bulls players, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson explained the situation and how the team must keep its options open.
“He’s become such a good player, and he’s trying very hard to be a good leader for this organization,” Paxson said. “He represents us very, very well. We have an obligation — this is what’s very difficult — we have an obligation as an organization to always keep your mind open. If somebody came to you and offered you some unbelievable deal, you’d have to look at it. But that’s not a knock on the player and that’s not saying you’re not committed to him. That’s just being realistic in this business, keeping your options open.
“You can’t say enough good things about how this young man has made himself into the player that he is. It’s been through hard work, it’s been through dedication, it’s been through this mindset that ‘I’m tougher than every other guy out there’ and that’s a wonderful and admirable quality to have.”
Butler was in England earlier Monday for vacation, as the official Twitter account of Chelsea FC tweeted a photo of him getting a tour of its soccer stadium.