Although the Chicago Bulls told Jimmy Butler they have no plans to trade him this offseason, the Boston Celtics aren’t buying it. That, or they aren’t taking no for an answer.
Armed with even more draft-pick goodies after completing a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers that shipped out the No. 1 overall selection, the Celtics are back to “zeroing in” on everyone’s favorite hypothetical trade target, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge:
The drumbeat has gotten louder in recent days that the Celtics are zeroing in on Chicago Bulls All-Star guard Jimmy Butler, whom they inquired about at the trade deadline, and are ready to cash in a good chunk of their cache of future Draft picks to go get him.
With the 76ers’ deal, Boston again has a ridiculous lode of picks: the third overall this year, the Celtics’ own 2018 first-round pick and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick, along with either the Lakers’ first-rounder next year (via the Phoenix Suns) or the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 first-rounder — depending on which one conveys from Philly — and the LA Clippers’ and Memphis Grizzlies’ 2019 first-rounders.
Trading for Butler ahead of free agency would almost certainly cost the Celtics a shot at signing Gordon Hayward. They could, in theory, still drum up enough cap space to max him out, but they’d be walking a fine tightrope.
Dealing for Butler after the fact, when they can try matching salaries rather than absorbing him into cap space would be easier. Or they could just view Butler as an alternative to Hayward to altogether. Or they could be angling to make trade offers for both Butler and Paul George.
Whatever the Celtics plan on doing, they have the flexibility to do it. They had it beforehand, but now, with an extra first-rounder in 2018 or 2019 in the chamber, they’re even more equipped to make a monstrous offseason splash that puts the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Eastern Conference reign on notice.