Photo: Zhong Zhi (Getty)

All the reporting about the souring of the relationship between Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves points to fit issues between Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. Butlerā€™s ā€œhonest conversationsā€ with Wolves brass led in short order to a trade request, and a list of preferred trade partners that suggested Butler was prioritizing teams with major cap flexibility for his next destination. That or heā€™d lost his mind.

Cap room is nice. It allows a team like, say, the Brooklyn Nets to make a maximum contract offer to the kind of player who might not otherwise have much interest in joining their organization. Someone like, say, an All-NBA wing shopping for his last chance to play for a contender during his prime years. But the Nets, Knicks, and Clippers will for sure not be the only teams with enough flexibility to make sure Butler is paid like a king in what is shaping up to be another big free agency summer in 2019, when Butlerā€™s current contract runs out. What gives? Well, hereā€™s some of what gives:

This is pretty great. The Clippers are currently an also-ran. Theyā€™re deep with rotation-grade wings and swingmen, but have exactly zero stars, and the chances of them landing a ā€œsecond starā€ in free agency all come down to how successfully they pitch free agents like Kawhi Leonard next summer. But the Clippers would killā€”they would trade every player on their roster and several draft picks, and possibly their own childrenā€”to land a player with as attractive a combination of youth and size and skill and efficiency and raw productivity as Karl-Anthony Towns. Only restricted free agency will keep Towns from being one of the two or three most targeted free agents next summer, when his rookie contract runs out.

Towns was Rookie of the Year in 2016; he was an All-Star in 2018; he was also third-team All-NBA in 2018. He is A Star. The league and the basketball universe are almost unanimous on that one. It would seem Jimmy Butler and ā€œleague sourcesā€ are the last remaining holdouts. Very helpful and not at all deliberately hostile and rude for them to make their feelings known.