Should the Knicks Pursue Jimmy Butler? If So, Who Should They Give Up?


This week, I attended the Knicks Town Hall meeting (full-length article reviewing this event later this week). One of the most interesting moments of the night was when Team President Steve Mills stated..
 
“We’re not going to trade our draft picks. We believe New York will buy into a plan.”

First came the Sham Bomb.

 

Then came the Woj Bomb. 

And with that, for the first time since the 2011 Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, the Knicks were officially in real discussions to acquire one of the league’s premier stars.

Butler has made his interest to join the New York Knicks very clear. However the question remains..

Should the team go after Jimmy Butler? If so, what pieces should they be willing to part with to acquire him?

The answer to the first question is short - Yes. The Knicks should absolutely pursue Jimmy Butler. Their star player, Kristaps Porzingis, is quietly a restricted free agent this summer, and adding Butler will show Porzingis that the team is dedicated to building a winning roster around him.

However, to avoid making the same mistakes that the team made in 2011 with the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Knicks should avoid “trading the farm” to Minnesota in return for Butler. Obviously, Kristaps Porzingis should be off the table, but I would also consider labeling Kevin Knox as untradable just based on the promise he showed over the Summer League. With Porzingis and Knox off the table, the Knicks… frankly (no pun intended... see Knicks deal) don’t have a ton to offer. Luckily for them though, the other two destinations (Brooklyn Nets and the LA Clippers) that Butler preferred don’t either.

I fired up the gold ol’ ESPN trade machine to come up with the best trade packages from each team.

The LA Clippers trade Tobias Harris, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Jerome Robinson to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler.

This one is a little risky for the Timberwolves, given that Tobias Harris is a free agent next summer. However, in my opinion, he is by far the best asset that any team could offer Minnesota in a Jimmy Butler trade. The Clippers don’t have their first-round pick next season (surprise, surprise.. the Celtics do), but they can offer up their two first-round picks from the 2018 draft. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be especially promising for the Wolves, as he not only fits the timeline of the team’s stars (Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns) better than Butler, but he also showed flashes over the Summer League.

The Brooklyn Nets trade Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, D’Angelo Russell, and Allen Crabbe to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler, Justin Patton, and CJ Williams.

This trade is essentially a talent grab for the Timberwolves from a very weak Brooklyn Nets roster. Let’s be clear. If I’m the Timberwolves, I hang up the phone the second that this trade is proposed by Brooklyn. Although Russell has showed flashes, he’s still dreadfully inconsistent and has struggled with injuries. Hollis-Jefferson is nothing more than a defensive guy and Allen Crabbe is a great shooter with an albatross contract that comes off the books next summer. If I’m Minnesota, I need at least one asset I could feel confident about going forward. Apologies to D-Loading, but he wouldn’t suffice.

The New York Knicks trade Mitchell Robinson, Enes Kanter, Frank Ntilikina to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler.

Without letting go of Kevin Knox, this is the best possible deal for both sides. The Timberwolves would acquire Buff Frank Ntilikina as their Point Guard / Shooting Guard (if he never figures out dribbling) of the future, who is a guy that they can rebuild their defense with. They would also receive Enes Kanter, an expiring, who would come off the books next summer and would immediately flee to Sam Presti’s doorstep begging for a spot on the Thunder.

The last piece would hurt the most - Mitchell Robinson, the big man who has become a fan favorite for his tenacious blocks in Summer League. Although it may pain the Knicks to let him go, there’s a chance that his value may never be higher. Remember, he didn’t play a game in college and has yet to step on an NBA court to go against real NBA players. Robinson would be the perfect foil to Towns. He's a defensive stalwart who would clean up for KAT's mistakes.

Which one of these deals is the best?

It’s a close call between the Clippers and the Knicks. The Knicks would offer more young talent in Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson, but the Clippers would offer something that no other team could provide: a proven asset that has shown the ability to produce. Tobias Harris put up 19PPG and 5RB on 41% three-point shooting last season. Gun to my head, I would probably pick the Clippers deal, but again it’s a close call.

Great... so the Knicks miss out on Jimmy Butler. Are we sure that Knox is worth keeping?

As I mentioned before, I would try to keep Knox off the table. To even consider placing Knox in a deal, the Knicks would need to know these two things about Butler:

  1. Jimmy Butler is fully healthy. In the 2018-2019 season, Jimmy Butler missed 17 games due to a Meniscus injury. This was likely caused by his overwhelming workload. Last season he was third in the league in minutes played at 36.7 per game, and over the past five seasons, he has averaged a whopping 37.6 minutes per game.  The wear and tear is real when it comes to the Timberwolves (ex?) swingman so the team would need a near-perfect diagnosis when evaluating the All-Star.
  2. The Knicks have 100% security that Butler will resign with the team. Without that assurance, Butler should be looked at as nothing more than a one-year rental. Trading major assets (such as Knox) would be incredibly unwise, as Butler would only be under contract to the Knicks for the 2018-2019 season. He has the option to hit free agency next summer and potentially leave the team. This is why I suggest taking the “selling low" route, and mirroring the Paul George to OKC trade (for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis), which at the time, seemed like a low price to pay for a superstar.

Now what? What’s next?

The caption from our Instagram (give us a follow, why don't cha?) post following the Butler announcement summarizes it best:

 


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