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Kevin O’Connor: Nets ‘make most sense’ for Jimmy Butler

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

Kevin O’Connor, on The Ringer podcast, makes the case that the Nets would be the team that “makes the most sense” —along with the Clippers— in the pursuit of Jimmy Butler.

O’Connor said he based his analysis on the number of assets the Nets possess and Butler’s continued interest in re-signing with a team in New York or Los Angeles. “Butler continues to reiterate these are the three teams he’d be willing to re-sign with,” O’Connor told Chris Vernon in a podcast recorded Tuesday.

However, this all could be moot, according to a Wednesday morning tweet from Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Minnesota will adhere to Butler’s wishes and O’Connor believes Brooklyn can put together an “interesting” package, maybe the best of the three teams he thinks are likely landing spots, the others being the Clippers and Heat. Miami has been the most aggressive in going after the four-time All-Star, according to reports.

O’Connor did lay out one possibility...

“Let’s say it’s a three-way deal between the Timberwolves, Nets and the Kings.

“The Kings can absorb (Gorgui) Dieng’s deal by only giving up Kosta Koufos. It’s not hard for them to absorb the salary. The question is what is the team - the Nets, the Heat or Clippers - willing to give out for it.

“That’s where I’m extremely interested in Brooklyn here because A) they’re one of the teams Jimmy Butler had on his list that he’d be wiling to re-sign with so they can feel more confident that he would actually stick around long -term.

“And B) they have two first-round picks in 2019 AND all of their future picks, unlike the Heat who don’t have their 2021 pick and the Clippers can’t deal a first until 2022.

“So Brooklyn, to me, is the most interesting team as a potential destination for Jimmy Butler because of those factors and the fact they have a combination of younger, impactful players and movable, expiring contracts to send to Minnesota.

“They can put together an attractive package.”

Who might the Timberwolves want? Like a number of pundits, O’Connor thinks Minnesota would start with Caris LeVert, who O’Connor calls “very, very underrated” and suggests the Nets will not want to move the 24-year-old. He noted repeatedly that Tom Thibodeau will have a tough job getting back value for Butler.

“The three teams, it seems, perhaps, to be down to — the Nets, Heat and Clippers and I wouldn’t rule anyone else out-- It’s tough to put together an appealing package. Is an offer led by Caris LeVert really anything special from Brooklyn ... IF they are even willing to deal LeVert and I’ve heard some noise that they might not be willing to deal LeVert.”

O’Connor added that the Timberwolves would almost certainly need to include the Kings in trade talks because no one wants Dieng and his three-year $48 million deal.

“If you’re Brooklyn or Miami or anybody else, any of the teams that want Jimmy Butler, you don’t want Gorgui Dieng on your roster whereas Sacramento doesn’t have a 2019 pick.”

O’Connor also thinks that the addition of Butler would vault the Nets into the playoffs this season — depending on who the Nets gave up and Butler’s health.

“You have to see who they give up, but Butler puts them in the 6, 7, 8 seed bubble. I think they’d be right there...

“But keep in mind one thing: Butler’s health. Butler has only played over 70 games twice in his career.”

In particular, he based his assessment on how LeVert would improve if the Nets didn’t have to give him up.

“If they’re able to get Butler without giving up LeVert, I would expect LeVert to continue improving as one of those playmaking, versatile, switchy wings.”

Neither O’Connor nor Vernon would make any predictions of when the issue would be resolved, but noted that the Spurs did well by waiting after Kawhi Leonard asked out.