Kyusung Gong/Associated Press
According to Wojnarowski, Butler likes the fact that the Clippers could potentially have the salary-cap space to sign two max-level free agents.
The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday that Butler had requested a trade from the Timberwolves after meeting head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story centered on the Los Angeles Lakers, who didn’t make the cut. Wojnarowski wrote Butler would’ve seriously entertained a move to the Lakers but that “LeBron James’ arrival as the franchise’s cornerstone made it less appealing for Butler in the prime of his career.”
According to Spotrac, the Lakers could have $41.7 million available next summer, which would be more than enough to sign Butler as a free agent—assuming he opts out of his current contract. Financially, they’d be on equal footing with any other team in the Butler sweepstakes.
Part of the attraction to signing James was how he’d open the door for more star players to follow him to Los Angeles, yet Butler isn’t the first star to seemingly balk at the idea of playing alongside the four-time NBA MVP.
During an appearance on the Back To Back podcast on the Count The Dings network, ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright reported Kawhi Leonard had also cooled on the idea of becoming a member of the Lakers. Wright said Leonard “doesn’t want to go and be second fiddle to LeBron” and instead saw the Clippers as a better choice.
The Clippers aren’t necessarily in rebuilding mode, but they’re clearly preparing to be serious players next summer and beyond at the expense of contending in the short term. They traded away fan favorite Blake Griffin last season and saw DeAndre Jordan sign with the Dallas Mavericks this offseason.
By signing James, the Lakers were one of the biggest winners of free agency. This time next year, however, the Clippers might actually be on stronger footing if they can successfully land Butler and another All-Star-caliber player.