What does the Jimmy Butler drama mean for the Utah Jazz?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 20: Derrick Favors
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 20: Derrick Favors /

The recent Jimmy Butler drama has sent shockwaves throughout the NBA, and it could very well impact the Utah Jazz as well.

Although the NBA offseason can seem long, it’s anything but boring. Between exciting trades, players throwing shade at one another and seemingly endless drama, there’s rarely a dull moment in the NBA even when the players aren’t taking the court.

That has been perfectly demonstrated these last few days as news of Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler has taken the league by storm. Butler reportedly has requested a trade out of Minnesota, which was followed by social media jabs back and forth between Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Wiggins’ brother.

Then later, it was reported that the Wolves front office had shut down trade requests and would be doing what it took to hold onto Butler and aim to push into the playoffs with him this season. Controversial head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau had no thoughts of rebuilding. Talk about awkward, though, trying to navigate an 82-game season with two of your starters pretty obviously disliking one another.

But as if things weren’t already weird enough, they took another incredible twist. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor came out saying that Butler is indeed available, and if teams want him, they should contact him directly. Talk about stepping on the toes of your coach/president and GM. Wowza!

I suppose only time will tell what will come of this fiasco, but I have a hard time seeing any way that Butler can remain on the roster at this point with all this drama. He reportedly had asked to be off the team prior to Monday’s training camp, so it’s entirely possible that his time is ticking in Minnesota.

I’ve never been a huge Timberwolves fan by any means, but you have to feel bad for what the passionate fanbase is currently enduring. A mere year ago, their future looked so bright. Now it appears that everything is going to blow up in their faces. If there was ever a team that deserved a surprisingly fortunate trade, much like the Indiana Pacers got when they traded away Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, its the T-Wolves.

If and when they do move Butler, hopefully they’ll be able to net a combo of players in return that help them exceed expectations.

For now, though, they’re undoubtedly a team in turmoil. And I’m certain the situation will only continue to unfold in dramatic fashion in the coming days. With all this said, though, let’s now shift our focus to the team you were hoping to read about, Minnesota’s division rival the Utah Jazz. How will this impact them?

Well, first and foremost, even before this Butler drama reached a new level of severity, I’d already predicted the Wolves to take a step back this upcoming season. In a recent Northwest Division preview that I compiled, I pinned the T-Wolves as finishing last in the division, being surpassed by the Denver Nuggets, due to Minnesota’s glaring chemistry problems. Especially if Butler is foolishly retained, it seems those issues will only multiply tenfold.

I suppose there’s a chance that, as I alluded to earlier, Minnesota could get a nice return for Butler and remain a competitive squad. But I’d say the chances are better that the first way this will all impact the Jazz will be that the Timberwolves will be much less of a threat in the Western Conference.

In fact, in such a deep conference, I’m definitely leaning now more than ever to pinning Minnesota as finishing outside of the playoff mix. They were a pretty good team with Jimmy Butler, but never anything near the elite in the West. Without him, though, their defense was putrid and they didn’t have the depth to make up for his absence. If they lose him, I could see the Wolves reverting back to a similar (if not quite as bad) instance of the 2016-17 squad that underperformed and finished 31-51.

But the Wolves aren’t the only team that will be directly impacted by the Jimmy Butler madness, especially if he is indeed traded. Whichever team lands him could definitely cause a major shift in the league. He’s purportedly listed the LA Clippers, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets as his top destinations. Each of them could offer him big money once he hits the open market in the summer of 2019, and could also pair with him another star player.

If he’s traded East, then the West will become ever-so-slightly less star-studded and it will likely reduce the ridiculousness of what is otherwise the deepest division in the NBA and the toughest of the two conferences. However, say he’s traded to the LA Clippers – suddenly a team with a lot of nice pieces would become a once again daunting foe in the West, while the conference would remain equally star-studded.

There’s another manner in which a Butler trade could dramatically impact the Jazz as well, although it wouldn’t take effect until after the conclusion of this season. If LA lands him and decides to invest in him long-term while also honoring his wishes of bringing in a second pricey star to pair him with, it could make it a little tricky for them to afford all their guys.

With all that being the case, there’s a certain Clipper that has been on the radar of Jazz fans, and I presume Jazz brass as well, for quite some time, that could very well become available in free agency. That man is Tobias Harris.

There have been reports that Harris has even expressed some degree of interest in joining the Utah Jazz, so if Butler and whoever else LA aims to bring in essentially push him out, it could increase Utah’s chances of landing the versatile stretch-four player who fits several of the coveted attributes the Jazz have been pursuing in a player for so long.

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In other words, between lessening the competitiveness of the division rival Timberwolves (as well as perhaps the West as a whole) and increasing Utah’s odds of adding a desirable free agent next summer, I’d say there are few, if any, negatives for them concerning this Jimmy Butler drama. As bad as I feel about the situation for Minnesota fans, it will likely only be of benefit to a Jazz team that has their sights set on a top seed in the West this season.

And finding out where Butler ends up will be an exciting final aspect to what’s been an exhilarating offseason. Utah Jazz media day is on September 24, with training camp starting the next day and the first preseason contest getting underway on September 29. A drama-filled summer has been fun, but I know I’m sure ready for the main event to get underway.