The Los Angeles Lakers have spent an entire season fielding speculation about which superstar might want to link up with LeBron James in free agency this summer. With only four games between now and the end of the season, the time is just about here to finally answer quite possibly one of the biggest questions in the entire NBA.
Howard Beck of Bleacher Report rounded up a few rumors with some of this summer’s biggest names (no, not for appearances in Space Jam 2), and one in particular has been tied to the Lakers a few times now:
Rival executives will tell you, without hesitation, that Durant is bound for the Knicks; that Irving is likely to join him; that Leonard likes the Clippers; that Butler might choose the Lakers—unless he chooses the Nets.
Of course, they all might stay put. (Well, except for Durant. Virtually everyone believes he’s leaving the Warriors.) No one knows for sure. Predictions are flimsy.
As I mentioned earlier, though, this is by no means the first time Butler and the Lakers have been linked in rumors. On two separate occasions, the Lakers tried to trade for Butler. Once, before last season began and then again after he demanded out of Minnesota.
Again, fans of irony might enjoy that the Lakers’ borderline religious edict for cap flexibility got in the way of either trade scenario as they didn’t have enough tied up money to make a trade work — though other things could have gotten in the way as well.
For the Lakers, Butler would obviously be a nice get, as he is a good player, but it’d be hard not to see this as a bit of a consolation prize after such pervasive rumors about their interest in Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.
It’s also worth noting Butler wouldn’t be an ideal fit. As he has two stints being coached by Tom Thibodeau in his non-existent rear-views at 29 years old, there is wear and tear to think about. The Lakers’ training staff doesn’t exactly have a spotless reputation, either, especially with former Thibodeau players (shouts to Luol Deng).
There is also the matter that Butler has also rubbed three different locker rooms the wrong way at some point, and given the chemistry issues the Lakers had over the last season, adding another flammable personality might not make the most sense. Butler, one of the league’s foremost type-A personalities, paired with LeBron’s passive aggression might shut down Twitter a time or two.
Oh and there’s also the “how it might work on a basketball court” part of the equation. Butler has never been that great a shooter (he’s shooting 34.9 percent from three this season on only three attempts per game). He enjoys playing in isolation, which would take away from time LeBron has the ball. He is a feisty defender, but if his athleticism slips thanks to those Thibs miles, then what?
Butler would be a solid addition by most accounts, and would at least be a means for the front office to save face after they lost Russell, Julius Randle, Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant all in order to have the opportunity to land a second star to play alongside LeBron. But there are question marks about his fit on and off the court, and as James pointed out yesterday, there is a ton riding on this summer panning out. If this is the move they make, it won’t be a sure equation for success. Then again, what is, and Butler would at least be better than not getting anyone.