If the Utah Jazz hope to get to the next level next season, then they should be willing to go all out in pursuit of Jimmy Butler this summer, who would be an ideal fit.
By and large, the Utah Jazz haven’t exactly been a hot destination team to which NBA players have come flocking throughout the years. Sure there have been a few exceptions, most recently Joe Johnson who joined the Jazz in free agency last summer, but for the most part Utah has had to rely on the draft and, to a smaller extent, trades to build themselves up into a playoff-caliber team.
And along with being known as a less than desirable free agent destination, the Jazz are also reputed as a team that tends to be pretty conservative when it comes to making blockbuster moves to shake up the team. Nevertheless, sprinkled about throughout Jazz history is a nice collection of trades, such as the acquisition of Jeff Hornacek which ultimately propelled the Jazz into the NBA Finals and the addition of Kyle Korver which gave Utah a much-needed shooter.
For a look at five of the best trades in Utah Jazz history, be sure to check out the piece in the link below from my Purple & Blues cohort Ryan Aston:
Most recently, the Jazz executed a trade this past offseason to bring point guard George Hill into the fold in exchange for the 12th pick in the NBA Draft. The deal has looked like a good one for the most part, but considering Hill’s injuries this season and his questionable status as a free agent this summer, the jury is still out on whether or not that will go down as one of Utah’s wiser transactions.
But setting past decisions and perceptions about keeping elite players in Utah to one side, one issue that has been glaringly evident for the Utah Jazz during their current series against the Golden State Warriors is that they lack the offensive firepower to challenge the league’s best team and they desperately need a reliable third guy alongside Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert to help elevate them to the next level.
Of course, Utah’s calling card under Coach Quin Snyder has been slow-paced, hard-nosed defense and in a lot of ways that has worked exceptionally well for them. In fact, in last night’s contest with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all struggling, for a while it looked as if Utah’s D would help them get on the board in the series against a daunting Warriors team.
Unfortunately, in the midst of some overall solid defense, the Jazz went on a fatal 4+ minute drought without a field goal in the fourth quarter, which saw their chances of winning the game, and the series, dissipate entirely. How nice would it have been if Utah could have had an additional guy on the floor to provide an offensive punch without having to compromise on defense?
Interestingly enough, there’s a guy out there who fits that mold to a T. Even more intriguing, is that man currently has trade rumors swirling all about him. His name is Jimmy Butler.
Now before anyone gets too up in arms about this suggestion, let me preface this by saying that I know all too well that it’s a long shot for this to happen. Butler is a highly coveted player and the Bulls aren’t going to give him up for nothing (if at all). Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that Utah shouldn’t go all in on trying to obtain him.
The most recent spark to the Jimmy Butler trade rumors came as a result of the comments from Chicago Bulls’ executive vice president John Paxson in the Bulls’ end-of-season press conference. Per a recent article from the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom, Paxson was wishy-washy at best when discussing Butler’s future with the team.
Paxson at first praised Butler for being the best player on the squad. However he was extremely noncommittal in terms of whether or not he felt Butler belonged on the team moving forward or not. The most concrete statement he had regarding the matter was when he said, “You always have to keep things open”, seemingly insinuating that for the right price Butler could very well be moved.
As the Bulls waffle between building around Butler or stripping the team down and rebuilding for the future, there’s no questioning that his status is going to be highly scrutinized moving forward.
In that same interview, Paxson also brought up concerns about Jimmy not fitting into the Bulls’ desired up-tempo style of play. That’s an interesting evaluation, if you ask me, but one that would make Butler fit even better with the Jazz. Fast pace not quite his style? Well, how about joining the ranks of a Jazz team that plays at a league-low pace of 93.6 possessions per game?
Then there’s the fact that Butler is an impeccable two-way player, able to fill it up on the offensive end while locking down the opposing team’s best player night in and night out. He was absolutely sensational this season as he averaged 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Although he wasn’t as efficient of a shooter as Gordon Hayward, he topped him in each of those statistical categories.
That reliable scoring ability would sure come in handy as Gordon Hayward wouldn’t be forced to shoulder such an incredibly heavy load for this Jazz team. Opponents would have to game plan for both Butler and Hayward which would in turn alleviate some pressure off both of them and provide the team with two guys to put the ball into their hands in key moments.
Defensively, just imagine what a help Butler could have been in the current series against Golden State. The Jazz were able to slow down Green, Curry and Thompson in Game 3, but unfortunately Kevin Durant had his way with several of his baskets coming against Gordon Hayward. I mean no disrespect to Hayward in bringing that up as he is truly one of the league’s underrated defenders and quite frankly Durant is capable of going off against anybody.
However, how nice would it have been to be able to have an elite defender like Jimmy Butler in the mix to also throw at Durant and force him to adjust? With defense as Utah’s calling card and as one of Butler’s strongest suits, can you even imagine a defensive lineup that featured the likes of George Hill, Jimmy Butler, Joe Ingles, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert?
That would be one heck of a lock-down group that would also pack a much-needed offensive punch with the addition of Butler. If the current series against Golden State has taught us anything it’s that the Jazz are still a ways behind the Warriors (as is most of the league to be honest), but going all out on a player like Jimmy Butler would certainly go a long way in narrowing that gap.
But enough about how good of a fit Butler would be with the Jazz (even though I’m currently drooling over the mere thought of it). After all, he is an All-Star and would likely fit with several squads. Therefore, it’s one thing to dream about him magically joining forces with the Jazz, it’d be another thing entirely to convince the Bulls to move him and make it happen.
Butler still has two more years left on his current contract, plus a player option for 2019-20, meaning if Utah were to make a trade for him this offseason, they’d have him locked in for at least two years with the opportunity to find great success in those years and ideally re-sign him after that.
Not to mention, given that he signed a new contract prior to the significant salary cap spike, his deal is actually quite reasonable, especially when compared to guys like Mike Conley who just signed deals this past offseason. The trouble with that, though, is that while it obviously helps the Jazz financially, it also makes Butler all the more valuable meaning he may be tougher to pry away from the Bulls.
However, we’re talking about a Chicago team that, not only may find themselves in rebuild mode soon as I already mentioned, but also gave up Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow and Jeffery Lauvergne. If the Bulls are willing to give up two solid role players for that little talent in return, perhaps Dennis Lindsey can pull the wool over their eyes and woo them into trading Butler.
There’s a good chance that it would end up costing Utah some young talent, perhaps in the likes of Rodney Hood, Dante Exum or Derrick Favors among others, as well as some of their future draft picks. But once again, going back to what we’ve learned from the current playoffs is that few outside of Hayward and Gobert have proven essential to this team’s success and in my mind, clearing out a few underachievers to bring in a big-time contributor like Butler would be well worth it.
In fact, those are the kinds of risks that turn a good team into a great team.
Of course, if the Bulls truly do become open to receiving trade offers for Butler, you can bet that the Jazz would be far from the only ones trying to make a move for him. The biggest question would then become, do the Jazz have enough desirable assets to push the Bulls to make a deal that included him?
Especially considering that there were rumors that the Celtics reached the point that they were willing to include both of their first-round picks that they acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a potential deal for an additional star, in some ways Utah’s offerings could look rather paltry.
However, there is the chance that the Bulls decide that rather than go all in on picks, that some of Utah’s younger and in some ways more proven players would fit the bill better. That’s purely speculation, of course, but it leaves somewhat of a door open for the Jazz. They could also get really creative and seek to involve a third team as was the case with the George Hill deal this summer which included the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks.
The point is, no matter how they go about it, the Jazz need to pull out all the stops and be willing to make a bit of a sacrifice to go get a guy like Jimmy Butler. If they do everything in their power and the Bulls still decide to keep him or if a deal gets done with another team, then so be it. But if word were to break that Chicago had dealt Butler for a lesser package than what Utah could have comfortably offered, that will be a tragedy in my mind.
Of course as I’ve touched on, not having assets that are appealing enough could be the death knell to a potential Jimmy Butler to Utah deal, but that doesn’t eliminate the need for Utah to try it.
Dennis Lindsey and Jazz brass have made it clear that they’re finished with the rebuilding stage and they’re ready to see the team win. The players proved they were on board with that plan as well by putting up a marvelous season and breaking their way into the playoffs.
However, while re-signing Gordon Hayward will obviously be Utah’s number one priority this offseason, it’s clear that the next most important thing has to be finding him a new and effective running mate that can push this team to the next level.
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Make no mistake about it, Utah’s current team is solid, especially if they could ever get healthy, but if they’re serious about championship contention then making a splash by adding a player of Butler’s caliber is an absolute must.
This offseason is going to be huge for the Jazz as it is, but if they could shock the league and pull of a move of that caliber, it would make an enormous statement and put them in an incredible position for next season.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com