PORTLAND, Ore. — The Trail Blazers aren't on star guard Jimmy Butler's list of preferred teams he'd like to be traded to, but that shouldn't deter Portland's front office from pursuing him.
According to multiple reports, the 28-year-old four-time All-Star asked for a trade during a Tuesday meeting with Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Butler wants to be traded to the Clippers, Nets or Knicks.
Wojnarowski also included in his report that Butler's list of destinations could expand "based upon the Timberwolves' and rival teams' willingness to negotiate a trade for him."
That's where the Blazers come in.
Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey should be willing to do almost whatever it takes, including trading CJ McCollum, to try to get Butler to Portland.
Aside from Damian Lillard, everything should be on the table.
For the past couple seasons, Olshey has recoiled at the prospect of trading McCollum every time the topic comes up. Which makes sense. But this is the kind of opportunity that should make him soften his stance. Butler is a rare commodity in that he's an All-Star talent just entering his prime whose skills line up with the Trail Blazers' most pressing needs.
Pair Butler with Lillard and the concerns about the defensive shortcomings of a diminutive backcourt disappear. Butler has a solid 6-foot-8, 235-pound frame and has been an all-defensive selection four of the past five seasons, including a second-team choice last season in Minnesota.
A two-time All-NBA selection, Butler is no slouch on offense either. Over the past four seasons, he's averaged 21.8 points per game with solid shooting percentages — 46.1 percent from the field, 35,2 percent from the 3-point line and 84.8 percent from the free-throw line. He's also a good rebounder (5.7 per game) and playmaker (4.6 assists).
There are two risks associated with Butler. His contract will pay him $40.2 million over the next two seasons but he has a player option at the end of this season. He's certain to exercise it and become a free agent. Also, he's a bit of an injury concern. He's missed an average of 15 games over the past five seasons, including 23 last year in Minnesota.
For a team like Portland, which appears to be stuck in neutral — not good enough to compete in the playoffs, not bad enough to secure a high lottery pick — the chance to acquire another All-Star makes the risk worth the potential reward.
The Blazers would have to believe that a full season playing for a players coach like Terry Stotts and with an unselfish, hard-working superstar like Lillard would endear Butler to Portland, inspiring him to stick around.
What would it take for the Blazers to land Butler? It's hard to say because the only word out of Minnesota is that Thibodeau has "no interest in trading him — for now," according to Wojnarowski. It's tough to even know what Minnesota would be looking for in a trade. Picks? Young talent? A comparable star? Who knows?
Luckily for the Blazers, they have enough options to put together an offer that would appeal to Minnesota. They have all of their first-round picks going forward and all of their second-round picks starting in 2021. They have intriguing young talent in Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, Caleb Swanigan and Gary Trent Jr. And if the Timberwolves want star talent in return, the Blazers have McCollum.
Here's a look at three different trade options that would make sense:
TRADE OPTION 1
Blazers receive: Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson
Timberwolves receive: CJ McCollum, choice of Al-Farouq Aminu or Maurice Harkless
TRADE OPTION 2
Blazers receive: Jimmy Butler
Timberwolves receive: Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Zach Collins, lottery protected 2019 first-round pick
TRADE OPTION 3
Blazers receive: Jimmy Butler
Timberwolves receive: Evan Turner, Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, unprotected 2019 first-round pick
Jared Cowley writes about the Blazers and other topics for KGW and is the co-host of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast. You can reach him at twitter.com/jaredcowley.
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