For now, however, Timberwolves president and coach Tom Thibodeau has no interest in trading Butler and wants to try and return to the playoffs with him in the lineup, league sources said.
Minnesota is resistant to immediately honor the trade request, especially given Thibodeau’s tenuous status with owner Glen Taylor, league sources said.
That seems… untenable.
Butler and younger teammates like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins had tension last season, as Butler came in and bristled at those who didn’t match his work ethic and competitiveness. Of course, that didn’t always sit well with those teammates. To be fair, everyone got along well enough for Minnesota to end a 13-year playoff drought. But how will Towns and Wiggins handle Butler’s intense and demanding style if they believe he’ll be gone in a year? And how would Butler react to even more resistance from teammates who’ve accomplished less than him?
Lame-duck leadership probably won’t work.
And Butler can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Chancing losing him for nothing – especially if the results next season underwhelm – would be a huge risk.
But my assessment considers only the overall health of the Timberwolves. The franchise isn’t a self-running entity. Rather, it’s a collection of individuals with their own agendas.
Thibodeau can be quite stubborn. Maybe he just doesn’t want to give into a trade request. That inclination could be pushed even further by a desire to impress Taylor, who reportedly isn’t sold on Thibodeau. The simplest way to do that is win, and Butler – chemistry concerns aside – is an elite player. He’d likely contribute more to winning than anyone Minnesota could trade for at this point.
Of course, this could be a bluff to maximize Butler’s trade value. If the Knicks, Nets, Clippers and other interested teams believe Thibodeau is inclined to keep Butler, they might offer more to pry him loose.