Rumors have been swirling surrounding Celtics superstar, Kyrie Irving, and his reported interest in playing with Jimmy Butler. Butler has recently reciprocated this perceived interest in playing with his old USA Basketball teammate and long time friend. The two All-Stars are set to become free agents after the 2019 season, so these rumors should come as a bit of a concern to the front offices of the two franchises.
There is a simple solution to this whole issue, and it begins with shipping Kyrie Irving and Abdel Nader to Minnesota. In return, Minnesota would send back All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns, along with veteran forward Taj Gibson. Boston would likely have to toss in a first round pick to sweeten the pot. The proposed trade is as follows:
Kyrie Irving, Abdel Nader, 2019 Celtics First Round Pick
Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson
Kyrie Irving is going into the final year of a fully guaranteed 5-year/ $94.3 million contract. Irving will carry a cap hit of $20 million into next season. For any deal to work, Boston would need to absorb a similar amount of money in contracts from Minnesota.
Abdel Nader is entering into the 2nd year of a 3-year contract with a 4th-year team option. The contract is worth $4.1 million total with $2 million guaranteed. The salary cap hit for next season stands at $1.3 million.
Karl-Anthony Towns is going into the final year of his rookie contract with the Timberwolves. In 2015, Towns signed a fully guaranteed 4-year/ $25.7 million contract. He will carry a cap hit of $7.8 million into next season. This figure is much lower than that of Irving’s contract, which is where Gibson comes into play.
Taj Gibson is entering into the final year of a fully guaranteed 2 year/ $28 million contract. He will carry a cap hit of $14 million into next season.
If this deal went through, this is what the cap hit for each team would look like for the 2018-19 season:
$21.8 million against the salary cap.
$21.3 million against the salary cap.
From a financial standpoint this deal works out very well. The Celtics come out of the trade absorbing a mere half million dollars more than that of the Wolves.
Why Boston Makes the Deal
If Kyrie Irving is serious about disbanding from the team to join forces with Jimmy Butler, there is no greater a return out there than a 22-year-old All-Star center who has yet to miss a game in his three year career. Make no mistake about it, a healthy Irving is just about as good as any point guard in the league, and with him in town, Boston is a formidable opponent against just about anyone. There isn’t a whole lot of sense in making a move like this unless he truly is planning on leaving. Danny Ainge will have a sit down with Kyrie at some point, whether that is before the season or before the trade deadline. If Ainge feels he’s going to lose his star point guard at the end of the season, he will not hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal.
Boston is already built well from the wing position with All-Star Gordon Hayward under contract for the next 3 seasons and promising talents in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The need is not there for the team to seek out a guy like Jimmy Butler, a player that is on the radar of a lot of Celtics fans. Al Horford fills out one of the two frontcourt spots, but Boston is short a solid center talent.
Enter Karl-Anthony Towns.
In Karl-Anthony Towns’ 3 year career, he is averaging 21.6 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. Towns adds a major boost to the team’s thin front court while solidifying the starting lineup for years to come. Boston gets the opportunity to add a major counter to the Golden State Warriors, who just signed free agent big man DeMarcus Cousins. With the Warriors as the team to beat, a signing like this could make a sizable difference in a potential Finals matchup.
Taj Gibson gets thrown into the deal as a salary filler. He could still provide a veteran presence to a young Celtics squad as a 33-year-old veteran. Gibson had a bounce back year in Minnesota after struggling with the Thunder in 2016. He averaged 12.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game last season.
Why Minnesota Makes the Deal
If Jimmy Butler is serious about leaving the team to play alongside Kyrie Irving, then why not bring the guy to town? This deal works so well because both players seek to join forces with one another. Minnesota head coach Tom Thibodeau loves Butler and utilizes the versatile 2-way guard as the focal point of his offense. The last thing Thibodeau wants is to let his star walk. By making a deal that brings in Irving, Butler gets exactly what he wants while bolstering the team’s backcourt for the foreseeable future.
Kyrie is already widely considered a top three point guard in the league. Last season, Irving averaged 24.4 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 40.8% from three. This trade would likely satisfy both stars and give the franchise a boost towards contention in the Western Conference.
Abdel Nader gets included in the trade as a young prospect with a respectable amount of potential. He didn’t see the court much last season with the Celtics, but he shined bright as a rookie in the G-League. Nader took home the G-League rookie of the year with averages of 21.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. He has a long way to go to make it in the NBA, but the potential is undoubtedly there.
The inclusion of Boston’s own 2019 first round pick would be the icing on the cake in this proposed trade offer. Adding another young talent to a roster centered around Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving could tremendously help the franchise contend for years.
Does a Deal Get Done?
This deal is a win-win for both franchises. Both teams get a young All-Star caliber talent that will bolster their roster for years to come. Kyrie and Jimmy will be satisfied with the opportunity to play alongside one another. Such a deal relies heavily on how much pressure Irving and Butler put on their respective front offices to make it happen. That being said, don’t be surprised if trade rumors start picking up surrounding the two teams. Karl-Anthony Towns may be closer to Boston green than we think.
Photo: CSN Chicago