The first rule of business negotiation is to never overvalue your product. The second rule of business is that if you are going to lie make sure your life feels like the truth. On both counts, the Timberwolves have failed. Punched in the face by the Jimmy Butler trade demand, they are the blind leading the blind. They don’t know if they are coming or going. They haven’t established a fair market price for Butler to go away. They may begin the season with Jimmy Butler in California waiting for them to act logical while they trot out Luol Deng as his replacement.
The real hit the absurd when the Timberwolves list of trade demands became public. A superstar, draft picks, a couple of players added in. They seem oblivious to NBA history. When Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat, the Lakers asked for Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley said no. Mitch Kupchak compromised. Lamar Odom. Caron Butler. Brian Grant. Was it equal value? No. But it was talent and a few years later the Lakers won back to back titles with Lamar Odom as a key piece.
When you trade a star you will never get appropriate value in return. You get a little less and hope you can turn it into something more.
Last summer, the Pacers traded Paul George for Victor Oladipo. Unfair, it seemed. Until the season started and Oladipo was an All-Star and nearly knocked off LeBron James in the first round. You know. But you don’t really know. If Thibs is the coach he wants everyone to believe, then he can take a B level player, insert him into his system, and reap benefits.
Stars are revered commodities. Teams aren’t going to give them up. And particularly not for Jimmy Butler who every February on cue goes down with an injury, and who is in the last year of his deal. Makes zero financial sense. The Wolves don’t want to accept they are sellers, not buyers. Sellers have to take the best deal. The Wolves are playing this whole thing like Jimmy Butler is LeBron James.
But really, all of this is based on a lie. The Timberwolves don’t want to trade Jimmy Butler. Without him, their season is ruined so they are trying to let things calm down by asking a price no one can meet in hopes that Butler will come to his senses ala Kobe Bryant 2007 when the Lakers said no we are not trading you.
The situations aren’t remotely similar. Butler has no stake in the Timberwolves organization. They didn’t draft him. They have only been partners for a year. Butler, even if he stayed this year, was out. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins fail his brand of hard core toughness and will. They are soft. Butler can’t deal with soft and so he’s chilling at home in Cali.
The question then becomes who is going to win this staring contest?
This is a Tom Thibodeau failure. Thibs hasn’t been able to fix anything while in Minnesota. His so called young stars ghost the game in key moments, not to mention their awful defense and competitive boredom ruin any chance of relevancy. Jimmy Butler was supposed to be the bridge to somewhere and he was. He was the only reason they made the playoffs last season. His absence is the reason they will be in the lottery.
Getting on the phone and asking for Ben Simmons isn’t going to change that this dog won’t hunt. It’s over Minnesota. You lost. You couldn’t make Jimmy Butler happy. (Trading Andrew Wiggins may have done the trick). And so Jimmy Butler wants to divorce you and take all your assets. It stinks but it’s the NBA. Stars want in and when they want out they don’t waste time.
The Wolves will come to their senses. Eventually. They have to get something for Jimmy Butler even if it is five cents on the dollar. They have to start over and mail this season in. Get whatever flotsam they can get and start the NBA season as if they have a chance in hell of making the playoffs.
In other words, lie to themselves.