But maybe Thibodeau would actually put his money where he is mouth is.
According to multiple league sources, coach Tom Thibodeau has no intention of letting Butler go for young, rebuilding-type pieces.
Thibodeau has zero interest in taking a step back with Minnesota, even, according to sources, if it means he ultimately parts ways with the team.
“No one expects Tom to coach a 25-win or even 35-win team,” one front-office executive told Sporting News. “Even if he has to agree to dissolve the contract, they’d do that before they go and trade Butler for draft picks.”
It’s unclear how much of this is hearsay. Thibodeau has a reputation for being unrelentingly competitive, and maybe people around the league are just supposing how that applies to his situation in Minnesota.
Remember, Thibodeau went 31-51 his first season with the Timberwolves – by far his worst record as a head coach. He didn’t quit.
He did trade for Butler after that season, though. And that fast-tracked Minnesota to 47 wins and a playoff berth. It would be disheartening to step back after last season’s breakthrough.
But trading Butler wouldn’t mean losing him for nothing. Thibodeau could get helpful veterans in return. They probably wouldn’t match Butler’s contributions. The Timberwolves are operating from a position of weakness considering Butler’s trade request. But trading Butler wouldn’t necessarily mean just subtracting him from this season’s team.
Besides, Minnesota already has franchise-player Karl-Anthony Towns and other solid vets. It’s too late for a full teardown. Minnesota should compete next season no matter how this Butler situation unfolds.
If Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor somehow feels he must force Thibodeau into trading Butler for unready young players and picks, that would signal Taylor has lost faith in Thibodeau running the team. At that point, it might be Taylor – not Thibodeau – ending the relationship.
So, I doubt Thibodeau ever must choose between the scenarios laid out here. But if he faces that choice, I’ll believe he leaves that much money on the table when I see it.