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Add Cavs, Blazers, Wizards, Bucks to list of teams calling about Jimmy Butler

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The Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota has been difficult to track the past couple of days. No doubt that’s due to the irregular nature of the potential transaction, with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor circumventing his front office to seek a trade for Butler.

It was reported Saturday that several teams were interested in Butler, including some of the teams the star shooting guard reportedly prefers to land. That list included Brooklyn, Detroit, Houston, the LA Clippers, Miami and Philadelphia.

Now, you can add several more teams to the list who have at least placed phone calls to Minnesota now that they know Butler is available to be dealt.

According to multiple reports, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Washington Wizards are interested in seeing what they can do to add Butler to their roster.

Trading for Butler at this juncture is a tenuous balance for all parties. Butler can opt out of his current deal at the end of the season, and is expected to do as much. That means teams must be certain that Butler is going to re-sign with them, or be happy with his rental for whatever assets they decide to give up. It puts the Timberwolves in a tough situation as well, where they won’t to get fair exchange for Butler’s overall worth.

We don’t have many details on actual offers just yet. Things seem to be a bit hectic in Minneapolis and new information is still streaming in. Training camp for the Timberwolves starts on Tuesday, and reports say that they would like to have Butler out of town by then.

What teams are willing to give up is another factor, and that self-imposed timeframe could widen what Taylor sees as a good return for Butler.

For example, any deal for Butler with the Blazers would not include Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, or Jusuf Nurkic, according to NBC Sports Northwest’s Dwight Jaynes. That leaves some value for the Timberwolves, including Al-Farouq Aminu or perhaps Maurice Harkless. But if Portland is reportedly not willing to give up any of their most important core, you can expect other teams are heading to Taylor’s door with similar offers.

More teams being added to the potential list of Butler landing spots is not surprising. When a superstar becomes available, just about every general manager will at least place a courtesy call to the trading office. It doesn’t help that Taylor appears publicly to be in a position of little leverage, so no doubt rival general managers are licking their chops to try to snag Butler away for cheap.

Keep your eyes peeled. This one is going to happen quick.

Trail Blazers spend to keep problems from compounding, but not enough to get better

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Trail Blazers didn’t extend Shabazz Napier his $3,452,308 qualifying offer, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. Portland replaced him with Seth Curry, who signed for $2,795,000 for one year. It appeared to be a cost-cutting swap.

But Napier signed with the Nets for just $1,942,422 next season (with an unguaranteed second year, to boot). Maybe the Trail Blazers were actually paying to upgrade their third guard.

Or maybe they just misread the market.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Portland is still hamstrung from its summer of 2016, when the salary cap skyrocketed and the Trail Blazers splurged on several subpar players. They haven’t won a playoff series since, and the last two offseasons have included a slow bleed of talent from Portland.

At least the bleed is truly slow.

The Trail Blazers’ biggest loss was Ed Davis, who signed a one-year, $4,449,000 contract with Brooklyn. He was a solid backup who fortified the rotation. Portland will surely bank on second-year big Zach Collins to play a larger role, and maybe he’ll be up for the challenge. But it would have been reassuring if Davis were available as insurance in the event the younger Collins isn’t ready.

On the bright side, the Trail Blazers are fast-tracking Collins only into a larger reserve role – not into the starting lineup.

Portland re-signed starting center Jusuf Nurkic to an astonishingly reasonable four-year, $48 million contract. It seemed possible the Trail Blazers would be content to let Nurkic take his qualifying offer, play cheap next season then walk next summer as Collins ascends. But Nurkic agreed to this team-friendly number, and Portland wisely spent more than necessary this season to secure him for the following three years.

The Trail Blazers also paid cash as part of a trade for the No. 37 pick to get Gary Trent Jr., a superb shooter who should be more ready to contribute than No. 24 pick Anfernee Simons, a de facto high schooler.

Portland is still on track to pay the luxury tax this season. The cost-saving moves of the summer might just reduce the bill. Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is far more willing to spend than most, and it’s to his team’s benefit.

The panic of Portland quickly agreeing to a minimum contract with Nik Stauskas in the opening moments of free agency was overwrought. Nearly all teams fill the end of their roster with minimum players. The Trail Blazers just aggressively targeted the minimum player they wanted before conducting other business or hoping a better player fell into the minimum tier. It’s a strategy more teams should take.

But Portland getting the clear-minimum player it wanted is not exactly inspiring. None of this offseason was.

The Trail Blazers seem to be just waiting out the contracts of Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard and hoping for the best. With Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in their primes, that stagnancy is disappointing.

I’m just not sure there’s a better alternative short of a massive luxury-tax bill for a team that’d still land in the same success range Portland has been the last few years. That seems unfair to ask of Allen.

Offseason grade: C

Damian Lillard is breaking news on Twitter (for some reason)

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It’s not exactly clear why Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has decided to dip his toes into the world of sourced reporting on Twitter. However, we know that the summer in the NBA is always the weirdest time of year, so here we are.

This week, Lillard decided to drop news of not one but two moves in the journalism world. First, Lillard revealed that friend Chris Haynes would be taking over the main national NBA post for Yahoo! Sports. A couple days later, Lillard tweeted news that USA Today’s Sam Amick would be joining The Athletic.

Via Twitter:

Reading between the lines, it’s likely that Haynes was the source for each of these moves as he is one of Lillard’s closest confidants in the sports media world. Pro Basketball Talk has confirmed that Amick will be heading to The Athletic, so at least Lillard’s sources — whoever they are — seem accurate.

In the meantime, no doubt this will fuel the running joke around the Blazers about “journalists in the locker room”. Lillard’s backcourt teammate CJ McCollum completed journalism school while he was at Lehigh.

It’s a brave, weird new world.

Rumor: Suns may target Patrick Beverley, Cory Joseph, Spencer Dinwiddie for trade

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The Suns want to trade for a point guard, and this summer targeted for some big names (Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard, Terry Rozier) only to strike out.

That doesn’t mean they’re done trying. John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM in Phoenix, who is connected within the Suns, laid out a number more rumors, via the station’s website.

Among targets, the Suns have discussed the Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, Indiana’s Cory Joseph and the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie.

First things first, these are the teams internally that the Suns would like to target, that’s very different from having an actual trade conversation with a team that goes anywhere. This is a wish list for Phoenix (and if I were with the Suns I would leak something like this to show the fans how hard we’re working, even if it wasn’t likely to come to pass).

All three of those guys are players in the final year of their contracts who maybe become available around Christmas or after if their teams struggle to start the season, or other players on their teams make them more expendable. However, all three also would extract a pretty big price to get, then the Suns would have to re-sign them in free agency.

Beverley is in the final year of his $5 million contract (which is not fully guaranteed, but the Clippers aren’t cutting him), and he is coming off microfracture and meniscus surgery on his knee that sidelined him most of last season. He is a guy other teams are watching because if he is healthy, and if the Clippers fall back in the West, they could decide to move more into a rebuild mode and make guys available (that is not a sure thing. However, owner Steve Ballmer is trying to get a new arena constructed in Los Angeles and may not want to lose a lot while going through an approval process with plenty of opposition).

Joseph is in the final year of his $8 million contract, and the Pacers have high hopes of not only making the playoffs but doing some damage there, taking a step forward off last season. With that, they have Darren Collison and rookie Aaron Holiday at the point as well — if Collison can stay healthy and if Holiday can show he is ready to contribute at a backup level now then maybe the Pacers will listen to offers. But those are two big “ifs.”

Dinwiddie is in the final year of a steal of a contract at $1.7 million. The Nets like Dinwiddie a lot and have some real decisions to make about the future of their point guard spot this season, primarily how much do they like D'Angelo Russell and how much are they willing to pay him a year from now as a restricted free agent. Even if the Nets decide they want to spend to keep Russell, they love Dinwiddie and it’s hard to imagine them moving him without a lot coming back their way in the trade.

None of these trades are likely, but it’s something to watch as we slide into the season.

Damian Lillard: ‘That would be an honor to be lifetime Blazer’

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Portland is essentially running it back this season with the core of the team that won 49 games and was the three seed last season, then got swept by the Pelicans in the first round. They retained Jusuf Nurkic and made some nice additions — picking up Seth Curry will help — but strapped by bad contracts there were no bold moves.

However, there were rumors of potential bold moves floating around the league — trading Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum and finding another star somewhere. It didn’t happen. Moving bad contracts this summer was particularly hard.

However, that was enough to get Michael Scotto of The Athletic to ask Lillard about it.

“That would be an honor to be a lifetime Blazer,” Lillard told The Athletic at the NBA 2K launch in New York. “Not a lot of guys get to play for one organization for their entire career. Obviously, I love playing for the Blazers. I love living in the city. I feel like I’ve established a connection with the people and the culture of the city just as much as I’ve done on the basketball court, so that’s important. But, as we know, it’s a business and a lot of times organizations have other plans, and sometimes players change their stance on that. But to be a lifetime Blazer, that would be great. I’m all on board for it.”

Portland fans (most of them, anyway) and the front office would love for that to happen. However, if there is a sense the team is in a real rut, all options will be considered.

The Blazers want to find a way to keep the backcourt of Lillard and C.J. McCollum together while getting the team to take a step forward into elite status. It’s just not that easy to do. Although GM Neil Olshay added some shooting this season, and maybe Zach Collins/Nurkic can take steps forward along the front line, the Blazers are a team in the big middle of the West. They could finish with the three seed again, they could miss the playoffs if a couple of things don’t go their way, or they could finish anywhere in between — there are at least eight teams, maybe 10 (depending on what you think of the Clippers and Mavericks) vying for the six remaining playoff slots in the West. The margin for error is small.

If things don’t go well, or if the Blazers make the playoffs and again get swept out in the first round, trade rumors for Lillard — and moreso for McCollum — will be back with force next summer. No matter how much the Blazers front office or Lillard himself say, he will forever be in Portland.