Just how badly does Butler want to leave Minnesota?
Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Butler is “open to signing extension” with one of his preferred destinations. That could be Butler’s silver bullet out of town.
Or it could be a miswording.
There’s a significant difference between signing a contract extension and getting traded then signing a new contract after the season. However, those different events often get described (sometimes inaccurately) under the term “extension.”
The largest extension Butler could sign while still being dealt before the February trade deadline is two years, $45,994,418 ($22,998,209 annually). It doesn’t matter whether he gets traded first or signs the extension first. That’s the limit.
However, if Butler gets traded then re-signs with his new team next summer, his max projects to be about $190 million over five years (about $38 million annually).
Would Butler really sacrifice so much? If so, that’d make him a far more-appealing asset. Not only would the team getting him gain longer team control, Butler would be locked into a relatively cheap salary. Teams that want him would offer more for him in that scenario – maybe even enough to convince a reluctant Thibodeau to deal the star.
Butler could also pledge to sign a larger extension with his new team six months after the trade. That extension would be capped at four years, $100,514,631 – the same extension he rejected from Minnesota this summer.* However, at that point, Butler will be near free agency. He might as well wait until his current contract expires.
His max contract next summer projects to be worth about $190 million over five years (about $38 million annually). Or, if he wants to leave his team, his max projects to be worth about $141 million over four years (about $35 million annually).
Either way, Butler’s max next summer far surpasses his largest-possible extension.
Of course, Butler isn’t guaranteed the max next summer. He’ll turn 30 before playing on his next contract, and he has plenty of mileage. But it seems likely he’ll come out well ahead on a new contract compared to an extension. That’s why he rejected Minnesota’s offer this summer.*
*The Timberwolves’ extension offer was frequently reported as four years, $110 million. But Butler’s base salary for calculating an extension is lower than his cap number, which also includes a portion of his signing and trade bonuses. The $110 million figure is based, incorrectly, on his cap number.
So, I doubt Butler will sign an extension. Promise to re-sign somewhere? Sure, that could definitely happen, though it’d be a non-binding pledge.
But as long as a potential extension is being reported, we should still consider the possibility.
Here are Butler’s four major options – signing an extension in conjunction with a trade now (blue), signing an extension six months after a trade (blue), re-signing on a new contract next summer (green), signing elsewhere on a new contract next summer (green). Rounded numbers are based on the projected 2019-20 salary cap.