Update: Sean Highkin of the Athletic reports that Butler is not being shopped and that Bulls are not taking offers for him. Original story follows.
The Los Angeles Lakers have thus far resisted the urge to short-circuit their rebuild, happy to let the team grow naturally rather than packaging multiple players for an available All-Star. But how much of that has to do with the team’s patience, and how much of it has to do with the availability (or lack thereof) of stars?
According to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, the Lakers and the rest of the NBA may be tested, because Chicago Bulls’ guard Jimmy Butler is apparently get-able on the trade market.
“League sources say that the team made it known weeks ago through back channels that shooting guard Jimmy Butler is available for the right price,” Bucher said in his video report. “Could his recent 52-point explosion against the Hornets change the team’s thinking? Not likely.”
But would the Lakers really want to cash in multiple members of their young core to build around Butler? Especially when his current team may not think he’s that type of player?
“The Bulls, league sources say, have been uncertain about building around Butler even after signing him to a five-year, $95 million deal,” Bucher continued. “One league executive said GM Gar Forman held off aggressively pursuing a move sooner this season because of the team’s surprising start. Now that the Bulls have leveled off, Butler is apparently back on the market.”
There is obviously nothing here specifically connecting Butler to the Lakers, but if he is actually available it’s only a matter of time before buzz begins to gather about whether or not Los Angeles should package some of their younger players to bring in a “superstar.”
Butler is a great player, no doubt. But the Lakers (if they were to get involved in discussions for him, which again, there are ZERO indications that they have yet) should be cautious about mortgaging their future to build around Butler.
One of the best things the Lakers have going for them right now is the depth of their youth movement. The team has growing players at just about every position on the roster. Those players are all at similar ages and on a similar timeline. If they ship them out for Butler, all of a sudden that timeline is accelerated with few guarantees that the allure of playing with Butler would be enough to entice free agents to jump onboard and plug those gaps.
Trading for Butler would also not leave the Lakers with much cap space to add extra talent. Presuming the Bulls wouldn’t be taking Timofey Mozgov or Luol Deng back in the trade, the Lakers would have around $51 million in salary committed to those two and Butler next season.
Again, there are no indications yet that the Lakers are involved in discussions for Butler, but whether it’s him, DeMarcus Cousins, or another disgruntled star, the Lakers should be cautious about breaking up what appears to be a promising youth movement in favor of a band-aid that might lead to more immediate wins but fewer long-term ones as the trade deadline approaches.