Report: Jimmy Butler to Opt Out of 76ers Contract; Lakers Have Genuine Interest

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2019

Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler (23) leaves the court after being ejected during the second half of Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 20, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

In an expected move, star wing Jimmy Butler will decline his $19.8 million player option for the 2019-20 season and enter free agency, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

According to Haynes, "The Sixers were prepared for this decision." Haynes also said the Los Angeles Lakers "have genuine interest" in Butler.

The trip to this point was a rocky one for Butler, who started his career with the Chicago Bulls before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Butler was excellent for Minny that year, averaging 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three. It appeared that he would be a long-term piece alongside superstar Karl-Anthony Towns and small forward Andrew Wiggins.

But things fell apart ahead of the 2018-19 season. Butler rejected Minnesota's four-year, $110 million offer in July, ostensibly seeking a supermax deal he would be eligible for after the season. He then put in a trade request, one that became nothing short of a public circus.

Butler also never jelled with either Towns or Wiggins, whom he reportedly deemed as being too soft and not hardworking enough for his taste. And while Butler is a two-way star, neither Towns nor Wiggins has ever become solid on the defensive end, which was perhaps another point of contention.

His time in Minnesota came to a close in early November when the Timberwolves traded him to the Sixers to join Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, a young pairing more talented than the Towns-and-Wiggins duo and more tenacious on the defensive end.

The Sixers then doubled down on the 2018-19 season, adding Tobias Harris at the NBA trade deadline.

While there were some concerns regarding the team's floor spacing with Butler added to the squad—alongside questions about how Embiid, Simmons, Butler and Harris would coexist, given that there are only so many shots to go around—the combination ultimately worked enough to get the Sixers the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In Butler, the Sixers finally had a perimeter player capable of creating his own offense, making him a valuable closer down the stretch and a reliable option in both isolation and the pick-and-roll. His on-ball defense was also welcomed in Philadelphia.

The Sixers are committed to Embiid and Simmons for the foreseeable future and have the cap space to keep both Butler and Harris. But the return of Butler remains up in the air, and he'll surely be a coveted free agent for teams looking to upgrade on the wing.