Jimmy Butler would look good in a New York Knicks uniform, but he’s not the right move for the franchise right now.
There’s no doubt Jimmy Butler would make the New York Knicks a better team, but the idea isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. The Minnesota Timberwolves star has been linked to New York in recent days, with the Nets and Clippers also on his wishlist according to multiple reports.
Butler, 29, was traded to Minnesota from the Chicago Bulls last year and averaged 22.2 points per game. He is set to hit free agency after this season and has made it crystal clear the Timberwolves are not in the cards.
The prospect of seeing Butler as a Knick is certainly enticing, especially since the team can sign him to a max contract next offseason. The downside is if GM Scott Perry were to make a deal now, it could wind up setting New York back even further in a few years.
Issues with injury
For all of Jimmy Butler’s strengths, he has dealt with the injury bug a lot. He has only appeared in all 82 games once and in over 70 games just one more time after that. In 2012-13, a toe injury cost him 15 games. The following year, his elbow cost him three weeks of action. His knee flared up the year after that and cost him 15 games, right after he signed a $95 million contract.
And the knee issues are far from over. Butler missed over a month with a meniscus injury last season and required surgery. His talent could be overshadowed by questions about his health regardless of what team he’s on. In a large media market like New York, he’d constantly be under the microscope by the Knicks and their fans.
Now, consider the position New York is in starting this season. Star big man Kristaps Porzingis is still recovering from ACL surgery. He said yesterday at the Knicks’ media day there was no timetable for his return.
Given how New York is already without one top player, the idea of acquiring another injury prone star seems silly. Butler would indeed be a boon to the Knicks, but not if there’s a constant worry every time he takes a hard fall or bad step. Throw in his potential price tag, and the risk is even greater.
Not worth the headache
Another reason the Knicks should avoid Jimmy Butler is his attitude. The Bulls traded him to Minnesota because he basically told them it was him or coach Fred Hoiberg, and management decided accordingly. Now, he wants off the Timberwolves after growing frustrated with his younger teammates according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Granted, Butler is a tough competitor who always gives his all on the court, but that’s just blatantly throwing teammates under the bus. New York has enough issues being a younger team amidst another rebuild. Does James Dolan, a polarizing figure himself, want to add that kind of persona to the roster?
Don’t get me wrong. Butler is a four-time All-Star whose preference for a balanced attack over pure scoring makes him unique in today’s NBA. However, though that type of player is a fine fit in David Fizdale’s system, he could quickly become disgruntled if things go south.
High price tag
Finally, though the Knicks can easily afford to give Jimmy Butler a max contract, they’d have to trade for him first. Minnesota is not just going to give him up for a package of role players. No, Tom Thibodeau and owner Glen Taylor will want a combination of top talent and draft picks.
Let’s start with the players. The salary cap for this season will be $101.9 million, and New York is over with a total cap of about $110.5 million according to Spotrac. Minnesota is even more over at $120.1 million. New York could have some more wiggle room once Joakim Noah’s buyout is complete, and even more if Courtney Lee’s remaining $25 million can be moved. Still, Minnesota accepting either in a trade for Butler is highly unlikely.
Realistically speaking, the Timberwolves would almost certainly command rookie Kevin Knox in any trade involving Butler. For money purposes, the Knicks would probably also have to include Tim Hardaway Jr. A ragtag package of Lee, Lance Thomas, Frank Ntilikina and maybe a draft pick wouldn’t do.
Remember when Minnesota traded Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers? The Timberwolves got recent first overall pick Andrew Wiggins in the deal. Cleveland wound up surrendering a first-round pick, albeit to the Philadelphia 76ers after Thaddeus Young’s inclusion. If New York is serious about adding Butler, there is nothing to suggest the former first-round pick would cost anything less than a king’s ransom.
Given New York being in yet another rebuild, draft picks are just too valuable. Giving them up for a player in Butler who doesn’t immediately make them a contender makes zero sense and risks setting the team back once again.
The good news for the Knicks is according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Butler’s interest in New York is “overstated.”
Hearing that Jimmy Butler's interest in Knicks was overstated. His main goal is to win sooner rather than later.
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) September 23, 2018
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added the Clippers were Butler’s first choice, so it’s not as though a trade to New York is imminent. That’s a good thing because when push comes to shove, Jimmy Butler could wind up hurting the Knicks more than he helps them.
Knox has too much potential to simply trade for a veteran with attitude and injury issues. Hardaway is a completely different player compared to when New York drafted him back in 2013. The state of the team is such that draft picks need to be prioritized. More importantly, what if Butler is traded to the Knicks, signs an extension, and then clashes with Porzingis? That’s a nightmare scenario worse than anything conjured up by Freddy Krueger.
No disrespect to Jimmy Butler, but he just isn’t what the New York Knicks need at this point. The idea of him showcasing his skills at Madison Square Garden is fun to think about. There’s no denying that. He’s a dynamic player whose motor speaks for itself.
It’s just that given the state of the Knicks right now, he’s more likely to wind up a curse than he is a blessing.