Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

The Case For Jimmy Butler

Why it makes sense for the Toronto Raptors to enter the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes.

After surprising most of the NBA when they were able to negotiate a trade for Kawhi Leonard, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Masai Ujiri and the Raptors take the wait-and-see approach with their new team. Seeing how the current roster fits in with Kawhi before making any decisions might seem like a smart decision, especially when you want to convey to him a sense of stability within the organization. Especially coming from THE most stable organization in the NBA, and possibly professional sports.

There is a good argument to be made to stick with roster for the time being. On paper, they have one of the best starting five in the East and have a chance at being the best defensive team in the league. They have depth, three point shooting, youth and a take-no-prisoners attitude that helped propel them to the best record in the East last season.

But much like when Kawhi suddenly became available, Jimmy Butler’s desire to be traded means the Raptors have to adapt and react.

See, when Masai Ujiri traded for Kawhi, he was going all in on winning. That’s not only encouraging, it’s actually rare. The saying in the NBA is that most GMs aren’t actually trying to win a Championship. They’re simply trying to keep their job. And that means playing it safe. Teams that play it safe generally don’t win Championships. A GM that wanted to play it safe probably would have kept DeRozan and sent out relatively the same team as last season. The same team that won a franchise best 59 games and first place in the East. The same team that allowed them to have the fourth highest attendance in the league.

That would have been the safe thing to do.

The problem is that Masai knew that Raptors team wasn’t going to win any Championships. DeRozan was an excellent shooting guard and a perennial All-Star, but if he’s your best player, you’re probably not getting to the Finals. The team was built for regular season success, but the playoffs showed the flaws of this team. And that’s why Masai traded for one of the best players in the league even though there was a good chance he would only be in a Raptor uniform for one season.

Whether you like the trade for Kawhi or not, it’s clear this is a better team than last season. Kawhi is an upgrade over DeRozan in every single way possible, especially on the defensive end, where DeRozan often struggled. Plus, the Raptors were able to also grab Danny Green, who will immediately step into the starting shooting guard position and is one of the best defenders at that position (he was All Defensive two seasons ago). Even more importantly, though, he was Kawhi’s best friend on the Spurs and has been universally lauded for his high basketball IQ and leadership abilities. This is a guy you want on your team.

Even with the addition of those two (and the under-rated pickup of Greg Monroe), the Raptors are not favourites to make it out of the East. They’re behind Boston in overall talent and are arguably a notch below Philadelphia, although that team is so young they’re liable to be inconsistent. If you think otherwise, there’s plenty of sports betting in Canada to test yourself.

Right now, the second best player on the Raptors is Kyle Lowry. Lowry is a a four time All Star and the emotional leader of the team, but he’s also 32 years old, has a long history of questionable decisions on the court, especially in crunch time, and is apparently unhappy after watching DeRozan, his best friend on the Raptors, unceremoniously shipped to the Spurs. It’s been said he has avoided speaking to both Masai and head coach, Nick Nurse. He also admitted that he hasn’t really spoken to Kawhi, yet. Not really what you want to hear from the guy who is supposed to be the leader on the team.

But even IF Masai doesn’t want to trade Lowry, the Raptors still can’t pass on Jimmy Butler.

Now, as I stated in my (abbreviated, for some reason) article defending the Kawhi Leonard trade, it’s not very often that a player of Kawhi’s calibre comes on the trade market while he’s still in his prime. And those players almost always lead their new team to newfound success and often a finals berth, at the very least. Jimmy Butler is not on the same level as a healthy Kawhi, but he is a two-time All NBA player and four-time All Defensive player, and is generally considered a top 15 player, if not a top 10 player.

Toronto hasn’t had two top 15 players ever. Not when Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady wore Raptor jerseys (McGrady eventually went on to become a top 10 player, but not while he was with the Raptors), not when DeRozan and Lowry were still playing together (neither were ever considered top 15 players, despite DeRozan making Second Team All NBA), and certainly not when they sent Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani out onto the floor together.

That level of talent simply cannot be understated.

Adding Butler, even if it means losing Lowry, would immediately make them favourites to come out of the East, and possibly give them enough talent to actually challenge the defending Champion Warriors, presuming they make it to the Finals again.

But trading for Butler does something else. It signals to Kawhi that this team is focused on winning a Championship and will do what needs to be done to do it. Trading for Butler not only should give the Raptors a better chance at re-signing Kawhi (assuming they don’t hate one another), but would actually give the Raptors a decent chance at re-signing Butler.

Butler’s big problem with his current team is what he perceives as a lack of intensity and commitment, especially on the defensive end. Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have talent, but both have been accused of coasting at times, something Butler can’t stand. Any flaws the Raptor roster does have, that is certainly not one of them. The Raptors have exactly the types of players that Butler loves.

While Toronto was not one of Butler’s preferred destinations, it could be exactly what he is looking for and Masai should be doing everything he can to try to trade for him.

And if both Kawhi and Butler leave, the Raptors will have a head start on the rebuilding process and a ton of cap room.