BLOG POST

Why the Knicks Should Trade for Jimmy Butler

By Danny Radical

Word hit the internet today that after one season in Minnesota with the Timberwolves, Jimmy Butler does not like his teammates, his environment, and he’s not even too fond of his old coach from Chicago, Tom Thibodeau.

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Butler has asked to be traded to one of three destinations- the Los Angeles Clippers, the Brooklyn Nets, or the New York Knicks. All three of those teams are horrible. But importantly to Butler, all three of those teams can offer him a fat payday NBA “max” contract. Personally, I can tolerate horrible if someone pays me $125 million over 4 years, but maybe that’s just me.

None of the teams can offer the Wolves anything that’s equal to the talent of Butler, a 4 time consecutive all star. What’s on any of these rosters that wouldn’t ruin any rebuild that a team was trying to accomplish? The Nets are going to send…Rodions Kurucs? The Clippers are trading…Luc Mbah a Moute? If either team excludes just about one player, this trade does nothing but help their chances in winning now.

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But the Knicks, the Knicks aren’t in completely awful trade shape. First off, they can send off an 18 ppg shooting guard with 3 years left on his contract to take the short term spot of Butler in Tim Hardaway Jr. They can send a player to solidify a bench in either Lance Thomas or Courtney Lee. Or both, if it needs to be. If the Wolves want to send an awful contract back to the Knicks, the Knicks can include Joakim Noah who has a relationship with the head coach of the Wolves.

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He loves his teammates

But what may make all of this come together is the one thing that the Knicks front office said just two days ago that they would not do- trade a first round draft pick. Which one some level makes sense, as the Knicks are bound to suck and have a top ten draft pick. And yet here’s why I would trade a first round draft pick for 2019.


Whereas the Knicks front office is thinking that their main job is to clear cap space for the 2019 offseason, the fact of the matter is that any front office must always judge what benefits you can reap from a draft and from free agency. Drafting generally has a better value for a team than free agency in the NBA because of the low player cap hit and the ownership of player rights for a certain number of years.

But the Knicks are living under some stupid, stupid contracts. Take Ron Baker for instance. Signed as an UNDRAFTED free agent, Baker has spent two years lighting the NBA up for about 3 points a night. He still has one year on his contract. Want to know what this dynamo makes per annum? Over $4 million a year. This is the last year of his deal with the Knicks. It should be the last deal he has with the Knicks.

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Suckitude.

Another stupid contract? Joakim Noah. He has 2 years left on a 4 year deal paying him almost $40 million, after paying him almost $35 million in the first two years. And what did the Knicks get for that? Last year Noah averaged almost 2 points per game and 2 rebounds per game for a whole 7 games before injuries and fights with coaches ruined his already horrible season.

Another stupid contract? Enes Kanter. Granted this is one that the Knicks inherited, but they took it on willingly in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Whereas Kanter is a personal favorite for his attitude and because he is a good teammate, he isn’t all that good at basketball. For a guy so big and strong, he plays absolutely garbage defense. Circus midgets dunk on him. He gets boxed out by point guards. He blocks 40 shots a year. At center. 40.

He had one of his best seasons ever at 14 points and 11 rebounds per game in not a whole lot of playing time thanks to the Knicks starting the year with 4 centers on roster- a sure sign of cluelessness in today’s NBA. And for that nightly double double? Kanter earned over $20 million dollars. Money well spent, you say? Compare it to Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trailblazers. 14 ppg, 9 rpg, 2 apg, 1.4 blocks per game for an amazing $3 million for the season. That was a contact year. He resigned for $12 million per for the next 4 years. So we may have found a price tag more appropriate for Kanter if he wants to stay in New York- maybe $9 million per year.

But Hardaway? He’s got about 3 years left on his deal at roughly $18 million per year. And his production isn’t too far off of Butler. Last season Hardaway showed us about 18 ppg, 4 rpg, and 3 apg. Compared to Butler with 22 ppg, 5 rpg, and 5 apg, and there’s not a whole lot of statistial difference. And Butler will assuredly make more than $18 million per for the next 4 years, easily.

Plus fans forget, when a player announces that he will only be traded to one team, it is catastrophic to his trade value. “Yes, trade me to Atlanta, where I will refuse to sign a contract and lollygag through a season. I’m sure they’ll give you top dollar for me!”

The first round pick from the Knicks that may be the lube that greases the wheel is an interesting concept. Knicks fans were preparing for this season to produce a top ten tank pick, with Kirstaps Porzingis sitting out half the upcoming season as a conservative estimate. But the Knicks had a very interesting 2018 draft and post draft. The Knicks took Kevin Knox with their first pick, Mitchell Robinson with their second, and signed as a free agent Allonzo Trier. Knox and Robinson made waves in the summer league, while Trier was a player that grew up in college and improved every year.

My point?

In a matter of 12 months, the Knicks can lose Kanter’s $18 million and replace it with Robinson’s $1.7 million per. They can lose $5 million of Baker and replace it with the $80,000 of Trier. They can buy out Noah and drop $10 million a year for the next two years. But wait, there’s more.

By sending out Hardaway and either Lee ($12 million) or Thomas ($7 million) the Knicks make just about any raise for Butler a zero impact on their salary cap. So getting back to that first round pick…

If the Knicks are running a starting five of Trey Burke, Butler, Knox, Mario Hezonja, and Kanter, with a bench of Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, Lee, Emanuel Mudiay, and Luke Kornet, well, that’s not entirely bad in a weak Eastern Conference. Add to it the return of Prozingis sometimes around the New Year and well folks, what do you think that first round pick would be? 15? 16?

Is Jimmy Butler worth a 15th pick in a draft? Yes, yes he is.

And understand that moving a combo of Hardaway and Thomas would clear financial space for Butler. The Knicks may even save money. With the buyout of the Noah contract (a move I personally would NOT make until after the season) the Knicks drop $10 million off of their cap for the next two years, which would be enough to keep Prozingis in the short term. With the expiration of the Baker and Kanter deals, the Knicks find $25 million for maybe a Kyrie Irving.

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Top that, Ohio.

To which in 12 months you have a starting five of Irving, Butler, Porzingis, Knox, and Robinson, with Burke, Ntilikina, and who knows what coming off the bench. With a starting five of that caliber, you can be assured people will find a way to sign with the Knicks for all of the various exemptions that exist within the NBA CBA. It’s instant legitimacy, and different from the Carmelo/Stoudamire era. Maybe even Kanter sticks around to get dunked on for less loot?

Oh, and what if Irving doesn’t sign with the Knicks? You have a max contract space for any one you want. Kevin Durant? Kawhi Leonard? DeMarcus Cousins? Klay Thompson? Kemba Walker and Eric Bledsoe are second tier free agents that can make 2020 interesting considering Anthony Davis and Draymond Green can be UFA that year.

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This guy, too.

So what to do if I’m the Knicks? I offer Tim Hardaway and Lance Thomas, and await a counter offer. But I would not be afraid to include a first round pick. And to save face, ask for their first round pick in return. After all, it’s not like Minnesota has a lot of trading partners beating the doors down!