Saddled with arguably the league’s worst overall defense over the early season, the Portland Trailblazers are rumored to have their eyes on rugged Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler.
The 26-year-old Butler is a three-time All-Defensive Second Team performer, but that along hardly tells the story of his steady ascension as one of the league’s best two-way players.
Earlier this month, Butler was crowned Eastern Conference Player of the Week after leading the Bulls to a 3-1 showing while ringing up averages of 27 points, nine rebounds, and four assists per night, including a season-high 40 points eruption against the overmatched L.A. Lakers.
Rumblings of Butler still being available are somewhat surprising given the Bulls traded away homegrown star Derrick Rose over the summer to put more of their fortunes in his hands and have gotten off to a respectable 10-6 start with a core of Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo.
To acquire Butler, Portland is rumored to be considering offering up a package of reigning Most Improved Player C.J. McCollum and veteran forward Al-Farouq Aminu.
Portland signed the 25-year-old McCollum to a four-year, $106 million extension over the offseason and management is thought to still be extremely high on the versatile star, but after watching Kevin Love easily torch the Blazers’ defense for 34 first-quarter points earlier this month, someone who brings Butler’s level of dogged tenacity might be viewed as even more needed.
As it is, even with McCollum and All-Star running mate Damian Lillard proving to be as lethal as any backcourt in the league, Portland would still be on the outside looking in if the postseason started after the first 15 games, trailing the up-and-coming Lakers for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot by a full game.
The Bulls might not be the only Eastern Conference squad soon looking to reinvent themselves on the fly. With LeBron James and the Cavs desperate to keep step with the surging Golden State Warriors, rumors of a Love for Jonas Valanciunas deal with the Eastern Conference rival Toronto Raptors are running rampant.
The purported six-player deal would also see Iman Shumpert going to Toronto and Corey Joseph, Terrence Ross and a feature first-round draft pick heading back to Cleveland.
With Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson hitting their groove in Golden State in the form of a current 10-game winning streak, the defending champion Cavs appear intent on doing all they can to surround James and Kyrie Irving with all the right complimentary pieces for a defense of their crown.
Meanwhile, with the league trade deadline fast approaching (Dec. 15), ESPN is also reporting vets Brandon Knight and Nerlens Noel could likewise be on the market.
In Philadelphia, it’s widely believed that the still recovering Noel (arthroscopic knee surgery) has played his last game as a Sixer. With Joel Embiid on the rise and Jahlil Okafor still in the fold, there simply aren’t enough minutes for the still developing Noel, who is on the record in expressing his desire to be elsewhere.
In Phoenix, Knight has struggled all season (36 percent shooting and just three assists a game in team’s first 12 losses), even after recently being moved into the starting lineup for the injured TJ Warren.
It hasn’t always been that way for the still just 24-year-old Knight, who averaged 17 points and five assists over his first two full seasons with the Suns, prompting many to speculate he may just now need a change of scenery to resuscitate himself.
After averaging roughly 34 minutes a night over that time, Knight has seen his run dip to just 25 minutes this season as the Suns have turned to a small-ball offense of Warren, Eric Bledsoe, and Devin Booker.
[Featured Image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]