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NBA Daily: What is Minnesota Doing?

After failing to facilitate a Jimmy Butler trade almost three weeks after his trade request, it’s hard to understand what Minnesota is thinking right now.

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Here we go again…

We’re approaching week three in the Jimmy Butler trade saga in Minnesota, and the situation continues to be frustratingly stagnant. The newest wrinkle came out this weekend when Minnesota and Miami appeared to be making serious progress on a deal before Minnesota’s last-second extra demands led to trade discussions breaking down. For now, things remain the same as this fiasco has gone from wildly entertaining to flat-out exhausting.

Somehow, we’re still pretty much exactly where we started back when Butler first asked for a trade on Sep. 19. Butler still remains a Timberwolf, coach Thibodeau still seems to be doing everything in his power to keep it that way and owner Glen Taylor still wants Butler on the first train out of Minneapolis the second a deal gets completed.

Watching the Jimmy Butler situation play out right now is pretty much like watching The Simpsons nowadays. Can it just end already?

The Timberwolves deserve some benefit of the doubt. They are in an un-winnable situation, both with Butler’s trade demand and a conflict of interest between Taylor and Thibodeau. Butler’s request also came at about as bad a time as a trade request can. No matter what his reasons were, asking for a trade just days before training camp starts puts your team in a particularly tough bind.

Still, with all the drama dragging on for as long as it has, why haven’t they pulled the trigger on a trade yet?

Many will point to Thibodeau doing his darnedest to keep Butler in Minnesota. He’s done this despite the fact that Butler has reportedly already told Thibodeau that he’s done as a Timberwolf and definitely does not have any second thoughts in that regard. It’s clear as day that the union between Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves is done. One way or the other, he will be on a new team – whether it’s this season or the next.

Reportedly, the reason why Thibodeau wants to keep Butler around is that he’s not interested in rebuilding. That’s understandable because rebuilding takes time, and Minnesota just came off its most successful season since 2004. Unfortunately, when your star player has made it clear that he wants out, you can’t do much but make do with the hand you’ve been dealt. If Thibodeau refuses to see it that way, then maybe it’s time to cut ties with him.

The more this situation drags out, the worse it should get. Butler reportedly will play for the Timberwolves if he’s not traded by the season opener. But, when it’s been revealed that neither he nor they like playing with each other, having him play next to Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins should only build more tension. Contention usually hinders success, which would foil what Thibodeau would want in Minnesota if Butler were to be on the team.

That is precisely why Butler needs to be traded. Even if shipping him out means taking a step back, no good will come from having him around at this point. The Timberwolves should know this by now, which is why it’s dumbfounding that they haven’t traded him yet.

Butler’s expiring contract destroys his trade value, and Minnesota’ insistence on including Gorgui Dieng and his contract in a trade severely limits their trade options. That’s why they need to take the best deal before this reaches catastrophic levels, or, in other words, let this drag on into the regular season.

When Butler first made his request, his original list of teams he wanted to be traded to included Brooklyn, New York, and Los Angeles – three teams who will all have massive amounts of cap room this coming summer. Because of that, they won’t trade much for someone they can go after this summer without giving up a thing, especially since they won’t sacrifice their cap room to absorb Dieng’s contract along with Butler.

Should Butler get traded, it’s likely that his next destination will be on a team already capped out, which is why the HEAT are the ideal situation. They don’t have the best young talent to offer for a player of Butler’s caliber, but they have the best return package Minnesota could ask for given the circumstances.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski’s report, Miami has softened their stance on including Josh Richardson in a deal. A 25-year-old player whose best days are ahead of him, even if he may not be a future star, he’s a 6-foot-6 jack of all trades guard who fits Minnesota’s timeline next to Towns and Wiggins. By no means is that ideal, but a productive Richardson, who’s on a bargain contract, is a respectable haul for a disgruntled Butler.

Miami is also one of the few teams that can accept Dieng’s hefty contract with no problem because they have the big salaries to match. Whether they include Tyler Johnson or Hassan Whiteside, those are shorter contracts than Dieng’s to have on the payroll, which helps Minnesota. A combination of Richardson and Johnson or Whiteside plus a possible first-round pick for Butler and Dieng is by no means a great deal, but what are the alternatives?

The only other team reportedly pushing for Butler is Houston, who can’t really send back Minnesota any young value nearly as good as Richardson. Much respect should go to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for never giving up on acquiring available superstars, but Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker should not be centerpieces to a trade for Butler. Many will point out that Houston gave up similar assets for Chris Paul. The difference is Paul was going to Houston either way last summer. It’s not the same situation with Butler.

One way or another, this isn’t going to end well for the Timberwolves, so they should make the most of this while they can. Dealing with a malcontent star is never fun, so the best course of action is to resolve the matter before you lose the little leverage you have.

Time to put this one to bed guys. Do it now before it’s too late.

Matt John is a staff writer for Basketball Insiders. He is currently a Utah resident, but a Massachusetts native.

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