The Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns are either targeting or have interest in a potential Jimmy Butler trade as the offseason heats up.
Stein noted that Cleveland would "obviously have to rope in at least one more team to provide the assets" to land Butler, but are "trying."
These reports came on the heels of Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical's report the Timberwolves had made "preliminary contact" with the Bulls regarding Butler. Wojnarowski clarified Chicago's asking price "remains elevated," but he noted "Minnesota has assets and interest."
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported the Suns news, citing a source, saying they were a "team to watch." Goodwill framed their interest as "due diligence."
There is a clear connection with the Timberwolves because head coach Tom Thibodeau was Butler's head coach in Chicago for four seasons. The Bulls finished with a winning record all four years as Thibodeau's defensive-oriented approach worked well with the two-way star.
A trade for Butler would also give Minnesota a veteran leader on the wing who could serve as a playoff-tested mentor and go-to option alongside young playmakers such as Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
As for Phoenix, it hasn't made the playoffs since the 2009-10 season, but Butler could join a developing core that includes Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe.
While Minnesota and Phoenix are intriguing destinations as potential up-and-coming Western Conference teams, the possibility of Butler suiting up for the Cavaliers or Celtics immediately stands out. The two sides squared off in the Eastern Conference Finals, and having a dynamic player such as Butler could make a difference in a future postseason meeting.
Cleveland in particular could use the defensive upgrade three-time second-team All-Defensive member Butler would represent. The Cavaliers allowed 121.6 points per game in the NBA Finals, as the Golden State Warriors consistently created easy looks at the rim and from deep.
As for the Celtics, Butler is the type of player who could at least slow down LeBron James on the defensive side while still scoring (23.9 points a night in 2016-17) on offense as they look to make up ground in the East against Cleveland.
As the sheer number of interested teams indicates, Butler's immediate future is one of the marquee storylines of the NBA offseason.