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Who is calling the shots for Wolves on Jimmy Butler’s fate?

September 22, 2018

As the NBA turned Friday, Jimmy Butler was still a member of the Timberwolves, two days after making his request of a trade to coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau.

But the intrigue continued to mount around the league, as teams inquired about Butlers status and questions emerged about just who would be making the ultimate decision on trading Butler Thibodeau or owner Glen Taylor according to a report from ESPN.

The report indicated teams were interested in gauging the Wolves interest in a trade but that all calls with Thibodeau went nowhere because the Wolves intend to keep him for this season. Thibodeau would prefer to keep Butler and attempt to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season than trade Butler.

One league source pushed back at the notion that Thibodeau would flat-out refuse to trade Butler, telling the Star Tribune that Thibodeau would be willing to make a deal if he thinks the deal is fair.

However, ESPNs report also stated that Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, is more open to dealing Butler than Thibodeau, and teams might lobby Taylor to make a deal if they get nowhere with Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden. ESPN reported Taylor, who was in New York at the NBAs Board of Governors meeting Friday, told other attendees that if they were interested in acquiring Butler, they could come to Taylor instead of the front office.

If in fact the Wolves are shutting down potential suitors now, it could mean they are serious about keeping Butler. But it also could be posturing to build up demand in a trade market for Butler, who reportedly gave the Wolves a list of three teams to whom he wished to be traded the Clippers, Nets and Knicks.

Butler is eligible to sign a five-year contract worth up to $190 million after this season if he remains with the Wolves or is traded. If the Wolves keep him and Butler decides to sign elsewhere after this season, the best he can receive is a four-year, $141 million deal.

Butlers contract was eligible to be renegotiated starting July 9. That was the three-year anniversary of Butler signing his last deal in Chicago, and salary rules dictate contracts of four or more years can be renegotiated at that point.

Based on an analysis of the Wolves salary cap, they would have needed to trim about $30 million from their existing payroll to bump Butler up to the maximum salary he is eligible for this season which would have enabled them to give him a five-year, $177.2 million extension this summer.

The Wolves did not renegotiate Butlers deal and instead offered Butler a four-year, $110 million extension, which he turned down.

It has been reported that Butler is unhappy the Wolves were unwilling to work out a more lucrative deal this summer, but a source from Butlers camp refuted that notion in a Chicago Sun-Times report that reaffirmed the reason for his trade request is his unhappiness with young Wolves cornerstones Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Former Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks similarly isnt buying money as a reason for Butlers unhappiness. Not only would an extension this summer mean the Wolves would have to part with key players, but also they can offer Butler more money next summer five years and $190 million.

I dont think that was a concession made when the Wolves traded for Butler, said Marks, who now works for ESPN, because the goal was to be good. The renegotiation, though he was eligible, would have damaged the team.

The Wolves acquired Butler on the night of the draft in June 2017, sending young guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick to the Bulls in exchange for Butler and the No. 16 pick. Butler led the way for a Wolves team that improved from 31 to 47 wins and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

It will be challenging for the Wolves to generate a trade market to maximize the return for Butler with teams getting their rosters in place for the start of the season in October.

The more days go on, the more leverage you lose, Marks said. You get to the trade deadline youre going to get 50 cents on the dollar. For Minnesota, if you are going to put him out there and there is no sense they are entertaining any offers, you are going to have to get a bidding war, but its hard because those three teams [Nets, Knicks and Clippers] can just sign him with cap space [in the offseason].

Star Tribune staff writer Michael Rand contributed to this report.

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