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Bright Side is split on whether Suns should trade for Jimmy Butler

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This is now the fourth time we have seen stars ask out over the past year plus. Is it time for Phoenix to roll the dice or stick to the plan?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s become trendy in the NBA recently, but with Jimmy Butler now requesting a trade out of Minnesota, make that the fourth former All-Star controlling their own fate before teams have their own opportunity. Add him to the list including Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard.

With that being said, should Phoenix make the ultimate gamble for an All-NBA talent on an expiring contract? That answer is more complicated than it seems.

Today, we have four staff members, including myself, weighing in on the Butler situation. What would you do, readers? Let us know by answering the same questions in the comments section below this piece.

Q1: Should the Suns even go after Jimmy Butler without them being on his shortlist? If so, what do you think it will take?

Evan Sidery - The Suns should be pursuing Butler, even without long term assurances, but that could immediately alter what they should offer up for him. There are three to four teams who I see as ones capitalizing on Butler becoming available — Washington, Milwaukee, Miami and Portland — who could gamble way more than Phoenix would. If it turned into a bidding war for Butler, I think Phoenix would say thanks but no thanks.

On a one-year rental, I would offer a package around T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender and the Suns’ own 2019 first-round selection. Tossing in a possible lottery pick might sting, but Phoenix already has so much young talent, and two firsts in 2020, that they could go this route without any issues. The worst that could happen is that Butler leaves, but they get off Warren’s salary freeing up more time for the likes of Mikal Bridges and Josh Jackson. If they were to include the 2017 No. 4 overall pick, for example, the package should be this: Jackson, Chandler, Bucks pick. That’s it. Personally, if Minnesota said no to the deal centered around Warren, Bender and a likely top 13-17 selection, then move on and go find that point guard finally.

Dave King - I am back and forth on Butler, mostly because it looks like a six month rental. But he does sound just like Paul George, and OKC won that bet that they could convince him to stay after a season. The Suns have passed on Kawhi and George and Kyrie and all the other one-year rentals, and I think it’s time to try to close the deal now. I’m skeptical on Josh Jackson being an All-Star level player, so yes I’d roll the dice with Warren, Jackson and the Bucks pick as the centerpieces. I wouldn’t tie up future Suns picks though.

David Nash - Let me point out first that I LOVE Jimmy Butler and a player of his archetype on this team would be a pretty great fit. Having said that, the answer to the question is no. If I’m the GM and there is no guarantee on Butler staying after one year, then what I am willing to give up isn’t going to get it done. We’ve seen trade packages for stars in these situations be less than expected recently but I still think it probably takes something like Jackson and a first. Jackson didn’t have a great rookie season but a Butler type is what you hoped for when you made the pick. Go check out how Jimmy’s first few years in the league went.

Keith Schessele - Yes. The team is bad. It does not look like the team will get significantly better as soon as I would like. When you’ve been this bad for this long, and a player of Jimmy Butler’s capabilities is made available, you pursue. That doesn’t mean you make a bad deal, but you pursue. With that said, without the Suns on the shortlist, I suspect the cost would be too rich for what might end up being one season of Jimmy Butler.

Q2: If Butler were to expand his shortlist, which Shams has hinted at, and the Suns were on it, would that change your stance at all?

Evan - Yes, it would. As I’ve hinted at over the past month or so, I don’t see how Phoenix will be able to attract max-level talent around its young core unless they trade for them beforehand. Kemba Walker at the trade deadline is something that would really intrigue the Suns, but if Butler said he would re-sign for five years on top of the one year already in their system, they should be all over it. At that point, I would offer a package like this: Jackson, Bender, Darrell Arthur’s expiring and the Bucks pick. If Butler doesn’t warm up to the idea of Phoenix, replace Jackson in trade discussions for Warren.

Dave - No, since I’m already willing to trade for him. OFF the table players would be Ayton, Bridges, Booker. Anyone else is fair game.

David - If Phoenix ended up on the list and you had a guarantee from Butler he would stay on, then you have to look at it. I am pretty adamant on the Suns staying the course with this rebuild, especially while the top of the West is so stacked. But any time a player of Butler’s quality is available and wants to come to your franchise, you just have to look at it. If a Suns offer of Jackson, a future first and salary (Chandler?) gets it done, I’m in.

Keith - I would, insofar that the Suns can afford to sweeten the pot considerably to get the deal done.

Q3: What do you see as the ceiling for a core led by Booker, Butler and Ayton? Would it be worth giving up someone like Josh Jackson?

Evan - That’s the $190 million question Phoenix’s front office has to answer, if they are considering rolling the proverbial dice on Butler. If Butler meshed with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, it creates a situation where his prime would be ending as the Suns’ original duo begins theirs. What’s interesting is that Butler’s extension would run parallel to Booker’s, locking in this trio as the championship contending core.

The worrisome fact is Butler has not played a full 82-game slate since becoming a full-time starter under Tom Thibodeau. How will his body hold up through his early-mid 30s? If the Suns believe he could function as the third option on a future contender — would Butler even accept that role is another question — that sets them up well to be a mainstay in the Western Conference Playoffs.

A futuristic lineup where Booker gets near Harden-level of playmaking during his development, would be tantalizing around him. The starting unit in this scenario would be Booker, Bridges, Butler, Warren and Ayton. When the 2020s come around, is that appealing enough as a winner and destination? Again, that’s the multi-million dollar question the front office has to figure out before deciding a franchise-altering move like this.

Dave - The Suns still need a viable point guard even after all this. But assuming they have a point who can defend, then yes I would have those guys as the core, with Bridges as the swingman backup for when Booker or Butler are hurt (because they will each miss time based on their history). The ceiling for that core appears to be second-round of the playoffs, to me, because Butler will age out of his prime before Ayton fully enters his.

David - See above. I just don’t see how the Suns land Butler without Jackson being included. And if you thought there was a roster crunch already on the wing, what role does Jackson realistically have on a team with Butler anyway? Assuming Booker and Ayton reach close to their plausible outcomes, that trio is pretty intriguing for the next 3-4 years. The Suns would have enough flexibility during that time to build around them with shooting and defense, so they’d be a legitimate playoff contender in the West. Timing things right for Ayton to then take over max money from Jimmy would be the ideal scenario, because the two younger guys should be contending for a lot longer than just life with Butler.

Keith - Worth giving up Jackson, yes. That core is impressive but without the right point guard it’s hard to say. That trio with no stability at the point is a middling Western Conference team at best. Doesn’t have to be an elite point guard, just has to be more than what they currently have, I think.

Q4: After passing on Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and possibly Jimmy Butler, are the Suns being too patient in wanting to push their chips in or doing it just right waiting until the exact right name pops up on the trade block?

Evan - The clock is ticking on General Manager Ryan McDonough’s contract, so how will that change his mindset? So far, it looks like little to none. If majority owner Robert Sarver has given McDonough assurances he will be around to see this rebuild through built around Booker, Ayton, Jackson and Bridges then I don’t see them doing anything to break that core up. However, with many of these expiring contracts washing off their books in July, I’m thinking that trade for a star comes in either February or June/July. Maybe they kickstart this early by trading for Butler, but I doubt it right now.

Prediction: Phoenix trades for either Walker at the trade deadline or do whatever it takes to free Damian Lillard out of Portland next summer. I don’t see Butler as the all-in piece, but honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if they shocked the world later this month.

Dave - Yes of course the Suns are being too patient as of now, but not too patient a year ago. It’s kind of hilarious that when the Suns were on the verge of the playoffs in 2013-15 there were NO star trades at all, and now when the Suns are mid-rebuild the stars are being traded all the time. Timing is everything.

David - No, I actually think they have done it the right way and should continue to do so until the right situation presents itself. This hypothetical may not be it, particularly if Butler has no intention to stay. Phoenix have quite clearly been targeting 2019 free agency for a while now and there is no need to panic on the #TheTimeline until at least after striking out next summer. A question I have asked repeatedly for the last little while; why cash in all the chips for short term relief now with the West as strong as it is? Let the Lakers and a few others deplete their young cores first.

Keith - Yeah, they’re way too patient. Recently, the product has hardly been consumable after Christmas. I know I’m not alone in that sentiment, and I would go as far as to say that most Suns fans feel similarly. Do something, Phoenix.

Q5: If the Suns win around 30-35 games this season led by Booker, Ayton and Jackson, will star free agents even consider the Suns or is too early in their rebuild?

Evan - Phoenix can reach max cap space next summer by one simple move, which is stretching Ryan Anderson’s contract. Even if no moves are made at point guard, I still see the Suns winning around 30-32 games but that might not be enough to win any veterans over. The trajectory of this team looks to be one of the top free agent suitors in 2021 when the next superclass features Davis, Giannis and Lillard. It’s a little too early to expect that star to flock to the Valley, but it will come organically sometime over the next few years. Hence why I think McDonough does a big trade for that star before he enters the final season of his extension for 2019-20.

Dave - For sure, if the Suns have Butler and Butler wants to stay, then I definitely see star point guards wanting in on Booker, Butler and Ayton. But if the Suns win 30-35 games, I really don’t see Butler staying. Suns would have to make the playoffs for him to want to stay. (Editor’s note: Looks like Dave misunderstood my question here, but I am assuming he means they could maybe attract a veteran point guard? Maybe? I don’t know.)

David - The interesting thing about a trade this season (especially if the Suns can offload the likes of Warren), is the Suns could potentially create a scenario where a traded for star could also recruit another free agent in the summer. This is a trend we are seeing in the NBA and certainly something the top guys are open to hearing. If the Suns put a positive product on the court around Booker and any combination of the rookie deals of Ayton, Jackson, Bridges and Okobo/Melton look good, then Phoenix might finally have a team to match the market in terms of attracting quality free agents.

Keith - I think they will, but that might just be me hoping for the best. Despite the best efforts of Suns management to make Phoenix a less than desirable destination, I still think guys would want to play there. Phoenix is lovely. The Suns have a rich history. It kind of seems sad right now that we’re even having this discussion. There’s been a lot of winning and a lot of fun over 50 years. Here’s hoping we return to those times sooner than later.

Q6: Instead of trying to acquire Butler, should the Suns try to get involved in trade talks in order to help facilitate and get their PG?

Evan - They should be keeping their options open on both, but it’s way more realistic to expect this type of outcome before the regular season begins. That seems like a McDonough move anyways. There’s plenty of options to pick from in possible trade talks helping facilitate a Butler trade elsewhere. Logically, with Butler including Los Angeles (Clippers) and Brooklyn on his shortlist, Phoenix could land Patrick Beverley or Spencer Dinwiddie. Other options include Goran Dragic if Miami wants to retool around Butler or Delon Wright if Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri pushes every chip into the table pairing Butler with Leonard right now. One way or another, I see the Suns getting involved in the Butler talks. Whether it’s to get Butler or their eventual starting point guard, I have a feeling a move happens here soon solving these questions.

Dave - This is better. As much as I want Butler, I really don’t see him staying past a year if the Suns don’t make — or barely miss — the playoffs. So instead I’d make sure the team ends up with a point guard out of this. Training camp is in THREE DAYS.

David - When you are sniffing around trades like this (and no doubt McD is), you often find another way to get involved when it becomes evident you aren’t in the running for the big fish. So that could certainly happen in this case and a few of the teams on Butler’s list have PGs that the Suns might be interested in. The likes of Beverley, Dinwiddie and maybe even Tyus Jones on the Wolves. I’m not sure we are going to have a resolution to the PG issue before training camp, as was sort of guaranteed by Shams, but McD could be waiting for the scraps here and finally pick up a quality starter without being bent over a barrel on the return.

Keith - They should be actively pursuing both of these options and talking to anyone and everyone who will pick up the phone. If I’m prioritizing, i’m probably going PG because I don’t think the Jimmy Butler thing is going to work out.

Either way, the Suns will be busy over the next few days before training camp opens. Not only do they still hold Arthur’s contract (will he be bought out or traded?) but they still have a two-way contract slot, which I was told before they planned to fill before Tuesday.

Another disgruntled star opens up the possibilities once more of Phoenix surprising everyone around the Association one way or another.