Stiles & Watkins’ Big Fish List: Is Jimmy Butler a fit for the Kings?

May 1, 2024, 1:21 AM | Updated: 2:08 pm

Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth...

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 31: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth quarter of the game at Kaseya Center on January 31, 2024 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

As the NBA offseason approaches, the Sacramento Kings are at somewhat of a crossroads heading into free agency and trade season.

What can Kings general manager Monte McNair do to push this team to the next level?

This week on Stiles & Watkins with hosts Allen Stiles and Chris Watkins, the guys broke down players that could be on Sacramento’s offseason wishlist.

Today, let’s dive into number five on Chris’ ‘Big Fish’ list: Miami Heat wing Jimmy Butler.

YouTube video

Jimmy Butler | Miami Heat | SG/SF | Age: 34 | 2024-25 salary: $48.8 million

The 2023-24 Kings were a team of nice guys. There’s nothing wrong with that — and it’s certainly better than a bunch of questionable personalities on a roster– but, they could’ve benefited from having a bit more ferocity, toughness, and fight on the floor when push came to shove.

While Jimmy Butler may be a nice guy off the court, he’s a different beast between the lines… and he just so happens to possess a size and skillset that could benefit Sacramento. He also knows what it takes to win at the highest level, having led a team to the NBA Finals as the best player twice, most recently last season.

It just so happens that the King’s roster lacks that. He’s a high-caliber player with the accolades to prove it.

  • 6x All-Star
  • 5x All-NBA
  • 1x All-NBA Second Team (2022-23)
  • 5x All-Defensive Second Team
  • 2014-15 Most Improved Player
  • 2020-21 Steals Leader
  • 1x All-Time Post-Practice Interview

Alright, enough about what he’s done in the past 13 seasons. What can he bring to a team at 34 years old? In the 2023-24 season, Jimmy Butler averaged 20.8 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.3 steals on 49.9 percent from the field. Two numbers should make Kings’ fans’ ears perk up: 41.4 percent from three on 2.4 per game and 85.8 percent from the free throw line on 7.7 a night.

Spacing has been one of Sacramento’s offensive staples since Mike Brown became head coach, making Butler’s career-best three-point percentage an encouraging sign. Considering he also converted 35.0 percent from beyond the arc in 2022-23, there’s reason for optimism. But you can’t overlook his three sub-par perimeter shooting seasons prior, never surpassing 25 percent in those campaigns.

When it comes to the shot, how much are the Kings willing to believe he can efficiently convert spray threes? Beyond that, the media day prankster can function with the ball in his hands and a primary member of the action. His high basketball IQ leads to success as a cutter or pick-and-roll ball handler.

Dribble hand-offs are Sacramento’s bread and butter when Domantas Sabonis is on the floor. They ran the most dribble handoffs in the league by a significant margin — their first with 11.5 per game, while New York ranks second with 7.2 per game.

Miami (10th) wasn’t far down the list, boding well for a hypothetical trade to California’s capital. Butler’s ability to get to the line is another aspect that may have been glossed over earlier.

Teams were able to string together extended runs against the Kings. Drawing fouls, slowing the pace, and allowing everyone to breathe can help. It’s also something to fall back on when the team inevitably can’t buy a bucket.

Sacramento was 21st in free-throw attempts last season with 20.9 per game. De’Aaron Fox (21st – 5.7/g) was their highest-ranked individual, while Domantas Sabonis (5.1/g) finished the year 31st. You have to scroll through a slew of names before Malik Monk (2.8) appears 92nd.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler (7.7/g) finished sixth in the NBA in free-throw attempts per game. He’s averaged 8.3 per game throughout 291 games played with the Heat. It’s what he does.

The issue is Miami has played 391 games during those five years, with Butler unavailable for a quarter. But he’s suited up for 39 playoff games since 2021, while Fox and Sabonis have 27 career playoff games combined.

Unfortunately, he’s unavailable for their first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics with an MCL sprain he suffered in the play-in. Injuries are unpredictable, but a certain level of missed games should be expected if taking on a 34-year-old Butler.

That’s where Keegan Murray comes into play. General manager Monte McNair and seemingly every member of Sacramento’s staff are extremely high on the former third-overall pick’s long-term projection. So, while the young forward comes into his own, Butler could shoulder a larger responsibility before passing the baton down, essentially.

It’s a similar idea financially. Murray has two years left on his rookie deal, providing production significantly above his financial cost. That would make Butler’s remaining two years and $101.2 million easier to stomach, but would they be willing to offer an extension appealing to Butler and his agent? That’s the same question currently circling Miami, as they face a 3-1 first-round deficit, with expected conversations to occur.

Zach Lowe discusses the situation in a recent stellar episode of “The Lowe Post” podcast.

“If Butler’s out for the playoffs — and for this series for sure, he is going to be out — He’s getting toward his mid-30s. Extension-eligible in the off-season. He has a player option for ’25-26. This is one of the last teams in the league that could have afforded a lost playoff opportunity because the timeline on the Butler-Heat is ticking towards the end, and those extension talks, which can start this summer, those could get spicy.”

The Kings would likely have to be all-in on the idea of a ‘Big Four’ of Fox, Sabonis, Buter, and (eventually) Murray being good enough. Good enough to compete for a Western Conference championship and the Larry O’Brien afterward. Maybe it could be with the right surrounding pieces. If Malik Monk stuck around and they capitalized on their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions this offseason, the blueprint could be there.

However, additional trades would be tough after acquiring Butler, given the recent track record of NBA stars who hit the trade block. Assuming Murray would be off the table in any deal, the Kings would likely need to fork over significant draft capital to present the best offer.

Due to their 2024 pick falling with the lottery, it did not convey to Atlanta, leaving their 2025 and 2026 first-rounders untradeable. On draft night, they could agree to select a prospect for another team with a handshake deal in place — if that’s something Miami (or any team) would prefer.

To match Butler’s hefty $48.7 million salary, Harrison Barnes ($18.0 million) and Kevin Huerter ($16.8 million) would need to be included. After that, Davion Mitchell seems like a candidate to sweeten the pot (and he just screams Heat Culture) and a bunch of draft picks. Including the 2024 pick (13th in lottery odds), the Kings have five first-rounders to work with.

Some would need to be made into swaps due to the Stepien rule, which prevents teams from trading away consecutive draft picks. The all-in offer could include the (likely) 13th pick in 2024, two unprotected first (2028 and 2030), and first-round swaps in 2027 and 2029. Three first, two swaps, two middle-of-the-pack (or potentially lower) staters, and a former 2021 lottery pick.

I wouldn’t expect McNair to extend an offer along those lines. Pick protections could come into play, and it may not take that much draft capital with Butler’s age — especially if he were to ask out, backing the Heat’s front office into a low-leverage corner.

The on-court presence of Jimmy Butler would benefit Sacramento, both mentally and physically. But taking a strike is still better than an in-field fly off a bad pitch. There’s pressure riding on the Kings’ next big swing, with a team waiting for one more piece to elevate them to a higher tier of contention in the West.

As the saying goes, every Batman needs a Robin, but don’t underestimate the role of the Butler.

When is the next Sacramento Kings offseason date of interest?

For the first time in two years, the Sacramento Kings will be crossing its fingers for luck during the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery.

The 2024 NBA Draft Lottery will be held on Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Chicago, where Sacramento will have the 13th-best odds of securing the top pick.

How the Lottery works: The 14 teams that missed out on the NBA playoffs are eligible for the Draft Lottery. The final odds were determined after the regular season, and tie breaks were settled between teams with identical regular season records.

NBA Offseason Schedule

  • Sunday, May 12 – NBA Draft Lottery
  • Wednesday, June 26-Thursday, June 27th – 2024 NBA Draft
  • Sunday, June 30th – Free Agent negotiating window opens (3 PM PST)
  • Saturday, July 6th – Free Agents can officially sign contracts
  • July 12-22nd – Las Vegas Summer League
  • July 27-August 11th – 2024 Olympic Games
  • Friday, September 27th – NBA training camps begin

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