Report: Cavaliers were close to trading for Jimmy Butler on day they ousted David Griffin

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
7 Comments

LeBron James is reportedly frustrated with the Cavaliers’ offseason.

It’s not just the moves the Cavs made, but the moves they didn’t – like trading for Jimmy Butler.

Perhaps, LeBron is being unreasonable. How often do teams as constrained as Cleveland was – deep into the luxury tax, multiple future first-round picks already owed, aging roster – trade for a relatively young star?

But the Cavaliers were pursuing Butler when they parted ways with general manager David Griffin, which certainly didn’t help their chances of nabbing the Bulls wing. Did dropping Griffin cost Cleveland getting Butler?

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

Further exacerbating James’ frustration is the Cavs were close to making a deal for then-Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler the day Gilbert decided to mutually part ways with Griffin and Redden, two people familiar with negotiations told USA TODAY Sports.

Griffin reportedly left the Cavaliers plans for a Butler trade, but Chicago obviously sent him to the Timberwolves instead.

We’ll never know what would have happened if Cleveland kept Griffin. It’s easy to imagine the Cavs beating the piddling return the Bulls got from Minnesota in a three-team trade involving Kevin Love.

But it was already easy to imagine several teams offering more than the Timberwolves did. Maybe Chicago is just that infatuated with Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. I’m also unsure Love’s value around the league – especially to teams who could flip the young players the Bulls coveted.

How close teams were to a deal is often overstated by one side that thinks it was close to a deal. The other team might have disagreed but not fully conveyed how far it was from accepting.

But, to a certain degree, perception matters here. If LeBron believes the Cavaliers could have Butler if they kept Griffin, that’s a problem for Cleveland.