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Opinion: The Jimmy Butler pursuit is not a winning prospect

Jason Mills
140   //    08 Nov 2018, 12:22 IST

Butler's future has been speculated upon in recent months, although he has started the season at the Wolves
Butler's future has been speculated upon in recent months, although he has started the season at the Wolves

From the time Magic Johnson was drafted in 1979, he and his Los Angeles Laker teammates made nine NBA Finals appearances. He won five of them, appearing in three consecutive years from 1987-89 - winning back-to-back titles before losing to Detroit in 1989.

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, is a case of what might have been - Jordan took time off between 1994 and 1995, though it could have been a consecutive eight-year domination of the Association.

Larry Bird, drafted one year before Magic but making his debut in the same year, was a three-time NBA champion. Besides winning a grand total of 14 championships between them, they all have in common the fact they dominated basketball for the same franchise for the majority of their careers.

Granted, Jordan played for Washington before his career finished but he's widely accredited with the continued existence of the Chicago Bulls franchise - before taking those same Bulls to the promised land on six occasions.

Magic, who in 1981 signed a 25-year Laker contract for $25m, was only making $500k back then. He also returned part of his salary in 1990 to add talent to their ranks - an act of unselfishness which also helped provide success with additional quality alongside him.

It's important to mention these man and their unselfish acts because the days of associating a star with one team and franchise loyalty to the one which drafted you are now long gone.

You never heard any of the three players mentioned complain about their salary, teammates, management or demand to be traded. They instead worked at their game, their craft and sought ways to make the team progress over time.

Unselfishness and loyalty has eroded with time

Over the last 20 years, we've seen NBA player salaries balloon and with it, so have their egos. What we have not seen is a desire from many players to work harder, being the best they personally can be for the good of their respective teams. I mention all of this to say that in a sport where one player often is the difference between varying levels of quality from mediocre to great, Jimmy Butler is just not that type of player.

Allen Iverson and LeBron James were and are great players - if a little selfish or egotistical - but they were great. Iverson single-handedly, and yes there were other players on the 76ers, but not at his level in the 2001 playoffs, led Philadelphia to the Finals. 

Iverson (left) in action during the NBA Finals
Iverson (left) in action during the NBA Finals

James has won three titles and is a constant threat to be in the NBA Finals every year, having been in eight consecutive champions (2011-2018). Players this good tend to get a say in where and how their career develops. 

Butler has gone about guiding his career path in all the wrong ways. Publicly shaming his former Chicago Bulls teammates and again doing so in Minnesota this past training camp, he has not led either team to a Conference Final much less an NBA Final. He was drafted 30th overall in 2011, which suggests he wasn't all that highly thought of.

Butler's demands too high, trade seemingly imminent

But egos grow and if not treated, can prove the detriment of a team's progress going forward. The Timberwolves really want him gone, a trade is the successful surgery of the basketball malignancy that Butler is. He wanted the Timberwolves to clear cap space to sign him to a four-year extension of $145m in addition to an increase in his current $19m salary for 2018/19 to $30m.

This, however, would have meant sacrificing other talents like Andrew Wiggins to accommodate an insatiable egotist who has yet - in seven plus seasons - to be the shining star that a franchise can follow to the promised land, which is an NBA Finals appearance at the very least. With all of that in mind, the pursuit of Jimmy Butler is not one that promises to be a winning prospect.

After suffering a 6 point per game average last year, Wiggins is displaying his potential once more.
After suffering a 6 point per game average last year, Wiggins is displaying his potential once more.

Any team looking to trade for Butler needs to be wary of the negative effects he can have on their burgeoning contention hopes. If Minnesota wants Eric Gordon for Butler from Houston, that is one thing, but if they want the four first-round picks that the Rockets were content in offering in addition, any team should run away fast from the pursuit of such a prospect.

Jimmy Butler is not Magic Johnson nor even Michael Jordan. He does not seem to care too much about the team or the state of the franchise. It's becoming increasingly apparent that despite his quality, Jimmy Butler is most worried about himself and his overzealous demands have warranted questions over whether he really is good enough to justify such expectation.

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