Last summer, the Minnesota Timberwolves sacrificed valuable trade assets to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. The move helped the Timberwolves end their 13-year playoff drought, but Butler doesn’t seem to be happy with the outcome of the 2017-18 NBA season. When the 2018 NBA offseason started, rumors and speculation circulated about the All-Star forward’s frustration with his young teammates, specifically Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
His decision to decline the contract extension the Timberwolves offered heated up the speculation about his potential departure next summer when he will become an unrestricted free agent. Days before training camp begins, Jimmy Butler will reportedly meet with Timberwolves Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden this week to “have honest conversations” about his future with the team, according to John Krawczynski of The Athletic.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN revealed that Butler and Thibodeau will “set the tone” for the superstar’s nearing free agency in July.
“A meeting set between Minnesota Timberwolves four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler and president of basketball operations/coach Tom Thibodeau is expected to set the tone for Butler’s final season under contract — and his impending free agency in July, league sources told ESPN on Saturday. Just days before the start of training camp in Minneapolis, Butler and his agent, Bernie Lee, are planning to meet with Thibodeau on Monday in Minneapolis for what’s expected to be a serious conversation on the franchise’s fragile state, sources said.”
ESPN story on the issues challenging Jimmy Butler, Tom Thibodeau and Minnesota’s future. https://t.co/BkWLNq47xf— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 15, 2018
Rival executives reportedly told ESPN‘s Wojnarowski that the Timberwolves are expected to make Jimmy Butler available on the market before the February trade deadline if he will not give an assurance that he intends to stay in Minnesota beyond the 2018-19 NBA season. Trading Butler will the Timberwolves’ best option, rather than losing him in the summer of 2019 as an unrestricted free agent without getting anything in return.
When the rumored dispute between Butler and his young teammates spread, reports also circulated that the All-Star forward wants to team up with Boston Celtics superstar Kyrie Irving. Like Butler, Irving is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer after rejecting the contract extension the Celtics offered this offseason.
As of now, the New York Knicks have emerged as one of the top free agency destinations for Butler and Irving. However, it remains questionable if the Knicks will be able to create enough salary cap space for two maximum contracts before free agency hits next July. As ESPN noted, Butler has never been enamored in playing for a big market, but he’s more interested in joining a team with “like-minded players” who will give him the chance for annual postseason success.