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Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor: Jimmy Butler rejected contract extension

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The Timberwolves offered Jimmy Butler the largest-allowed extension this summer. It would’ve paid:

  • 2019-20: $24,534,935
  • 2020-21: $26,497,730
  • 2021-22: $28,460,524
  • 2022-23: $30,423,319
  • Total: $109,916,508 ($27,479,127 average annual salary).

If Butler plays out the season and opts out, he could re-sign for a projected $190 million over five years (about $38 million annually). Even if he opts out to leave, he could get a projected $141 million over four years (about $35 million annually).

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

It probably just wasn’t enough money. Butler is worth a max contract when healthy.

He’ll also turn 29 before the upcoming season and has shown significant wear and tear while playing big minutes for Tom Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota. I’d be leery of paying Butler big money into his 30s.

But he’s probably correct to bet on at least one team being enamored with him in what should be a looser market next summer. He also might not want to lock into playing with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns and without Kyrie Irving.

Report: Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns talking max extension

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Karl-Anthony Towns was the Third Team All-NBA center last season, averaging 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds a game, shooting 54.5 percent from the floor.

That in just his third NBA season.

He is the definition of a no-brainer max contract extension, and the two sides are talking about it according to Michael Scotto and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

The only negotiation is about what kind of contract Towns wants. He likely will sign the “designated” rookie-scale extension — what Andrew Wiggins signed with the Timberwolves last season — and that means five years and $158 million (25 percent of the salary cap). However, if he makes All-NBA again next year he can get 30 percent of the cap, or $190 million over five.

Offensively, Towns is going to earn that contract. However, if he really wants to lift Minnesota to contender level is defense has to get better and more consistent. He still does not read that end of the floor well, and the effort is not there nightly.

This deal is going to get done, but it leaves a lot of questions about the future of the Timberwolves. Towns is an elite-level player who Minnesota has to bring back, unquestionably, but Jimmy Butler is not a fan of Towns and his work ethic. There appear to be factions within the Timberwolves locker room, with the hard-driving Tom Thibodeau and his backers like Butler on one side, Towns and the younger players on another, and Wiggins off in his own world (everyone seems frustrated with him, especially after his lackluster effort and focus after signing his big deal a year ago). One way or another changes are coming to that team in the next year, the chemistry is rough, and signing Towns to a max extension may signal where the franchise is going to plant its flag.

Report: Zach LaVine signs four-year, $78 million offer sheet with Kings, Bulls to match.

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UPDATE: The Chicago Bulls are going to match

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The Sacramento Kings had been talking to LaVine about a potential offer, and they came in big reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The deal has no options and no-trade clauses, according to Vince Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls’ deadline is 11:59 ET on Sunday.

To keep a team from matching on a restricted free agent, the team with the offer sheet usually has to overpay. Still, that is A LOT of money for LaVine. A lot.

That said, the Bulls and LaVine were talking and sources said the salary offer was around $18 million a season. Is that $2 million a season worth losing him? Or, have the Bulls shifted their focus more toward Lauri Markkanen as the cornerstone of the future.

LaVine is a bet on potential, he has shown a lot in stretches, but his game is based on athleticism and he is coming off an ACL surgery, then had to be shut down last season with knee tendonitis. Health has to be a concern.

However, if healthy he has the tools to be a quality two guard in the NBA. His last season in Minnesota before the ACL injury he averaged 18.9 points per game with an above-average 57.6 true shooting percentage and the ability to hit threes. The questions are can he get back to that place physically, and can his game mature to make up for any loss of athleticism? LaVine does put in the work. Also, to LaVine’s credit, since coming to the Bulls he embraced the role of being the new face of the franchise in public.

The Kings are betting that the Bulls don’t want to go up to $20 million, and Sacramento will have added to a young core that includes De'Aaron FoxBuddy Hield, and Marvin Bagley III. They will have some quality young pieces who can play an exciting up-tempo style.

Which rebuilding team is willing to pay LaVine for his potential?

Five things we’ve learned through four days of free agency

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In the free agency of 2018 players were grabbing the bag. Fast.

Ordinarily free agency — especially for the big names — plays out over the first week of July as players meet with various teams, try to play teams off one another, and push for the best offer out there. Not in 2018. Not with most teams cash-strapped (only nine teams had more than $10 million in pure cap space to spend signing free agents before free agency). Knowing the market was tight, players grabbed the deal in front of them. Fast.

What did we learn from the first four days of free agency? Here are the five big takeaways.

1) Everyone — players and teams — are focused on 2019. As of this writing, there have been 52 contracts handed out to NBA players this free agency period — 29 of them (56 percent) have been one-year deals, or contacts with an opt-out after one year (stat courtesy Marc Stein). For comparison, the previous couple of years about 30 percent of contracts were one-year deals. This year’s the list of short deals includes big names such as DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors, as well as the more expected ones, such as Raymond Felton staying with the Thunder.

Why? Money. As mentioned in the intro above, not a lot of teams had money to spend on free agents — the majority of teams were over the cap and/or into the luxury tax, many didn’t even have the full mid-level exception to offer. That changes next summer when many of the contracts signed during the drunken sailor spending spree of 2016 (when the cap spiked) come off the books.

The end result is players are reading the marketplace, then taking one-year deals to get back into free agency when there is more money out there. Cousins did it. Derrick Favors did it with Utah. Tyreke Evans did it. Rajon Rondo. The list goes on and on.

Teams also are biding their time, looking to make a splash in 2019 rather than in this market. Teams are trying to avoid long-term contracts that impact next year’s cap space.

One caveat now for 2019 — the market is going to be saturated. There always will be money to pay the top guys (Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, etc.), and in 2019 that money will trickle down couple tiers below those guys, but there is not going to be enough big money for everyone. Some players who think they are going to get paid next summer will be disappointed.

2) The Lakers won free agency by getting LeBron James, but they are focused on 2019, too. LeBron wasted no time making his call — no formal meeting with the Cavaliers, his agent had a perfunctory one with the 76ers basically just to let them know he wasn’t coming, and that was it. Before free agency was 24 hours old LeBron had made his call and let the world know — he was going to the Lakers.

More than just that, he signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, showing Magic Johnson and company the kind of trust he showed Pat Riley in Miami but never gave to Dan Gilbert or anyone in Cleveland.

With that trust, the Lakers are not overpaying to win now. They have ignored the line thinking that with LeBron at age 33 they can’t spend a year building and must win immediately. Talks to trade for Kawhi Leonard cooled, and the Lakers didn’t throw their remaining cap space at long-term deals for the best players available. Los Angeles didn’t even keep Julius Randle. The roster the Lakers have put together for the 2018-19 season coming up — the young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, plus now veterans (and interesting personalities) Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee — will be good, it’s a playoff team, but it’s no threat to Golden State or Houston. Even with the greatness of LeBron, this is a team that will hover around 50 wins in a brutally deep Western Conference, and at best make the second round of the playoffs.

The focus is on getting another superstar, another All-NBA level player. Maybe Leonard, via trade or as a free agent next summer. Maybe another star free agent they can sign into cap space (Jimmy Butler or Klay Thompson). Maybe another star unexpectedly becomes available via trade. Maybe a lot of things, but the Lakers have prized flexibility above all, the ability to sign guys or make deals. They want to contend for titles, but they — with LeBron’s blessing — are thinking a season or two down the line. As part of that plan, they want to get LeBron working off the ball more.

3) Yes, the Golden State Warriors got better, but it was more than DeMarcus Cousins that fell their way. The Golden State Warriors got better this summer. No doubt. Not in the “they formed the Death Star” kind of way that NBA Twitter freaked out about, but Cousins — despite his expected mid-season return and being less than 100 percent, lethargic defense, ball-stopping offense in the post — is an upgrade over JaVale McGee or Zaza Pachulia. Cousins will hit some threes, make some passes, and fit in as best he can in the Warriors’ system.

However, the list of things that have given the Warriors a better shot at a title now goes way beyond just Cousins. For one, the only team that was a real threat to them last playoffs, the Houston Rockets, got a little bit worse when Trevor Ariza took Phoenix’s cash. LeBron James came to the West on a team that is not yet a threat. The Spurs are dragging their feet on the Kawhi Leonard situation, keeping on the bench a player who (if healthy) could help form a contender somewhere. The list goes on. Things have gone right for the Warriors this offseason, but it is more than signing a guy coming off a torn Achilles.

4) Restricted free agents have been left hanging. Clint Capela should have some team offering him a max or near max contract to try to poach him from Houston. Marcus Smart has no offers yet. Nor does Jabari Parker. Or Zach LaVine. Or Jusuf Nurkic. Or Kyle Anderson. Or Rodney Hood.

In a tight financial market, teams have spent on the guys they could get rather than tie up their cap space for a few days trying to snag one of the NBA’s restricted free agents. Remember, these are the guys where the team they played for has the right to match any contract. In the case of Capela, Houston GM Daryl Morey has made it abundantly clear he would match any offer and that has scared off potential suitors. In the case of Parker or LaVine, injury concerns have teams hesitant to jump in with the level of commitment it would take to scare off the Bucks or Bulls. And so on and so on down the list.

The bad news for these restricted free agents is there are not a lot of teams with money left — Sacramento, Atlanta, a few others — and those teams are not looking to spend a lot and win more right away. Those teams are more likely to take on a bad contract for a future asset than overpay to try to steal a player away. The options for the restricted free agents are not getting any better. Expect a few to play for the qualifying offer then become free agents next summer (see item No. 1 on this list).

5) Oklahoma City got the band back together, but they are going to pay a lot to do it. The number is staggering — $300 million. The Thunder got their man — Paul George will be back on a new max contract. As expected, Carmelo Anthony opted in to his $28.7 million. Jerami Grant will return and sign a three-year, $27 million contract. Combine all that with Russell Westbrook‘s max contract that kicks in, plus the repeater tax, and the Thunder are lined up to pay the largest salary plus tax bill in NBA history. That $300 million bill would make the Lakers or Knicks blush.

Is it worth it to run back a 48-win team that was bounced in the first round of the playoffs?

In OKC, they know that in the past nine months two stars have chosen them, chosen to stay in their market over going to Los Angeles or New York or wherever. That’s a big win. This team believes it was better than it showed down the stretch and into the playoffs. Ownership says its worth whatever price and they will pay it for a year.

Around the league, other teams expect the Thunder to make a couple of cost-savings moves. Just something to keep an eye on.

Report: Jimmy Butler tiring of Karl-Anthony Towns, wants to play with Kyrie Irving

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Jimmy Butler has emphasized how much he want to play with Kyrie Irving. They even looked into teaming up last summer.

But the Bulls traded Butler to the Timberwolves, and the Cavaliers traded Irving to the Celtics.

Could the stars join forces next summer?

Both hold player options. Irving won’t sign an extension with Boston. Butler can’t get a max extension from Minnesota (which will still offer as much as it can now) and has problems with teammates Andrew Wiggins and apparently Karl-Anthony Towns.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

A league source close to the situation told the Sun-Times on Tuesday that Kyrie Irving and former Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler are still trying to figure out a way to play together.

As for Butler, a league source said that he also has no intentions of signing an extension with Minnesota, all but fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates, specifically Karl-Anthony Towns.

Stars talk about teaming up far more often than they actual team up. But the ramifications are significant enough to take even the possibility seriously – especially with both Irving and Butler both headed toward 2019 unrestricted free agency.

I understand friction between Butler and Wiggins/Towns. Butler is on a higher competitive level than those two, and it sometimes seems to drive Butler mad those younger players don’t match his intensity. For now, Butler’s approach appears to be putting the Timberwolves on his back and dragging them as far as he can. But once he hits free agency, he might relieve himself of that burden.

Of course, Towns (22) and Wiggins (23) are young and still developing. They might improve their competitiveness next season to the point Butler enjoys Minnesota more.

And teammates aren’t the only factor in where players sign. If Minnesota offers the most money next summer, Butler might not turn that down to play with Irving.

If he does, where might Butler and Irving attempt to team up? Celtics? Knicks? Nets? Bulls? Timberwolves?

Don’t even get started on Minnesota trading Towns for Irving. The Timberwolves wouldn’t without a pledge from Irving to re-sign and probably not even then. I doubt Irving is longing to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota.

But maybe, just maybe, there’s a way for Butler and Irving to unite with the Timberwolves or another team.