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What if the San Antonio Spurs had traded for Jimmy Butler

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Hindsight’s always 20/20.

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

On July 3, 2018, Bleacher Report posted an article stating that Jimmy Butler would not sign an extension in Minnesota. The experiment had failed and he had been at odds with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Tensions had mounted and it looked pretty obvious that he wanted out.

Ten days later, Butler officially turned down an extension.

This was still two months before he stated he wanted a trade.

By the time this article posted Kawhi Leonard’s desire to leave San Antonio was clear. The issue was that his uncle continued to state he wanted to play in Los Angeles and a trade anywhere else was a one-year rental, bringing down his value on the market.

That one-year comment proved to be true, but for the Toronto Raptors who won a title, the trade just may have been worth it.

At the time, this Spurs fans most logical thought was that the Spurs should trade Kawhi Leonard for Jimmy Butler. Both played the 3 position and although the change would not be seamless, there would be a less rough transition than almost any other available trade at the time.

Keep in mind, trading Jimmy Butler wasn’t in the mainstream yet. It could have been a quick and very Spurs-like under the radar move. That is, of course, until it would inevitably have been announced.

Instead, the Spurs received DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and the draft pick that became Keldon Johnson, possibly the long-term benefit of the trade.

But let’s assume for a moment that the Spurs had traded Kawhi Leonard for Jimmy Butler. Kawhi’s 2015 contract earned him $90M for five years while Butler’s 2015 five year contract was worth $92.3M. A nearly even trade that would have allowed the Spurs to retain the services of Danny Green for another season.

Just comparing Butler to DeRozan (this season) shows very little discrepancy in scoring — DeMar outscored Butler on average by 2.2 points per game. In assists, Butler dished 0.4 more per game. Butler also out-rebounded DeRozan to the tune of 1.2 per game. Butler also doubled DeRozan in steals (0.6 to 0.3) and nearly doubled in blocks (1.8 to 1.0), giving him a better defensive rating as a player.

Surprisingly, DeRozan shot better from beyond the arc than Butler, but Jimmy “Buckets” put over four times the amount of attempts. Two seasons with Chip Engelland and one could deduce the Spurs would have maintained defensive prowess amid improved three-point shooting.

Oh, and Butler would have loved the youngsters in San Antonio. No nonchalant youth to be found on this squad.

Considering how well Butler has played in the bubble during these playoffs it’s hard to believe he couldn’t have been a better trade option for the Spurs.

And honestly, if that trade had gone down, do you think the Minnesota Timberwolves would have won a title with Kawhi? C’mon.

That’s a win-win.

Will Jimmy and the Miami Heat knockout the reigning MVP and send the top-ranked Milwaukee Bucks out of the bubble tonight?

Catch the game tonight at 5:30 p.m. on TNT.


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