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Nets among Jimmy Butler’s preferred trade destinations, but Clippers in lead

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Timberwolves and that the Nets, along with the Knicks and Clippers, are a preferred destination. Later, Woj added that the Nets are behind the Clippers and Knicks on Butler’s list.

And Shams Charania noted that the Nets “appear motivated” to trade for Butler and sign him to an extension that would pay him more than $40 million in each of the last two years of a five-year deal.

First word came early Wednesday afternoon...

Butler had met with Timberwolves president of Basketball Operations Wednesday in Los Angeles and informed the team about his desire to be traded, according to Woj and Shams Charania of The Athletic. Butler, an unrestricted free agent after this season, would be willing to re-sign an extension with any of the three teams.

Later, Woj tweeted that Thibodeau has no interest in dealing Butler, as of now, but that training camp opens on Tuesday. (Indeed Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic wrote that Butler may not show up for the T’Wolves’ Media Day on Monday or the start of camp Tuesday.)

Then, on Wednesday night, Woj wrote the Nets are behind the Knicks and Clippers.

The Brooklyn Nets’ ability to sign two max free agents in the summer will keep them in consideration for Butler, but he has prioritized the Clippers and Knicks over them,

At issue for Butler is whether he wants to continue playing with Minnesota’s young core featuring Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler has reportedly criticized the two for a lack of effort. Reports surfaced last week that Towns wouldn’t sign a contract extension until Timberwolves resolved Butler’s situation.

Butler, 29, is looking for a max contract after this season. Woj later reported that Butler wants the five-year, $190 million maximum extension that would come with a trade to a new team, but, Woj added, there’s “some reluctance” from teams to commit $40 million-plus annually as Butler reaches his mid-30’s. According to Bobby Marks, the cap hit in years four and five of the deal would be in the $40 million range.

As to whether Brooklyn was interested, Woj wrote the three teams “have differing levels of interest in Butler as a free agent, each prioritizing him in different ways, league sources said.” Charania, however, reported the Nets and Clippers “appear motivated on Butler,” the Knicks less so.

The Marquette product has averaged 16.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in six seasons with the Bulls and one season with the Timberwolves. The perennial all-star has asserted himself as one of the best two-way players in the NBA.

There are major questions, though. First, what would the Nets be willing to give up — if they’re even interested? Teams have called about Caris LeVert specifically, but they’ve also built a young core featuring Jarrett Allen, D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Hollis-Jefferson appears to like the idea of Butler joining the Nets.

No matter what happens with Butler, the idea that a All-Star at the peak of his career wants to join the Nets is a huge affirmation of what Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have accomplished since taking over in mid-2016. Two years ago, the franchise was seen as a basket case with no draft picks and little cap space. Since Marks and Atkinson took over, the Nets have restocked their picks, adding four this summer alone, and built up a cache of between $50 and $70 million in cap space.

Would they be willing to “skip a step” during the rebuild for somebody like Butler? It’s a term Marks has used with disdain, a not-so-subtle reference to how in 2013 the Nets traded away their future for three players at the end of their careers

Still, Butler is a four-time NBA All-Star (2015–2018), a two time All-NBA Third Team player (2017, 2018); a four time member of the All-Defensive Second Team (2014–2016, 2018) and the league’s NBA Most Improved Player (2015).

And would Butler likely be the first domino to fall for Brooklyn? Here’s what the Chicago Sun Times reported back in June:

Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving and former Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler — who’s been playing with the Timberwolves since a draft-night trade in 2017 — are still trying to figure out a way to play together.

Irving, 26, is a New Jersey native who grew up a huge Nets fan during the Jason Kidd era. Irving’s situation in Boston is uncertain, but it serves as an example as to what this might indicate for the summer of 2019.

“We have a year to prepare for summer of 2019,” Sean Marks said earlier this summer. Now, he may have to make a decision a bit earlier.