While the Los Angeles Lakers put themselves in position to sign two max-level free agents this summer, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson noted the franchise had two years to retool their roster.
The Lakers proceeded to sign LeBron James, but rather than break up their young core in a Kawhi Leonard trade, kept the group intact and added veterans on one-year contracts. While improving the roster, the Lakers maintained flexibility for 2019 free agency.
A star-studded group of players are expected to reach the open market, with the likes of Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, Leonard and Klay Thompson among the notable names. The Lakers have already been linked to each of the aforementioned players.
It’s plausible there could be movement with Butler before free agency, as he is scheduled to meet with Tom Thibodeu to discuss his future with the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic:
Jimmy Butler will meet with Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden on Monday to "have honest conversations about the All-Star's future with the team," sources tell @TheAthleticMIN. Story upcoming.
— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) September 15, 2018
Minnesota finished this past season 47-35, good for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. They were promptly eliminated by the Houston Rockets in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
The Timberwolves didn’t make any significant changes during the offseason, first signing Anthony Tolliver, then Luol Deng upon clearing waivers after he was bought out and stretched by the Lakers.
This isn’t the first suggestion at unrest existing between Butler and the Timberwolves. In July, he rejected a four-year, $100 million contract extension. Prior to that decision, a report indicated Butler had grown tired of the behavior and work ethic of some teammates.
With regard to the Lakers, Butler reportedly is interested in playing alongside James. But with the 29-year-old due to become a free agent after this season, the Lakers may remain consistent in refusing to trade assets under such a scenario. Just as they did with Paul George and Leonard.
Of course, Butler and Thibodeu have a longstanding relationship, which could easily lend to any concerns being smoothed over.