The Minnesota Timberwolves are prepared to part with the No. 5 overall pick in this month's draft, as the centerpiece of a trade package, if they can use it to construct a deal for Chicago Bulls star swingman Jimmy Butler, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Wolves, in these early days of the Tom Thibodeau era, have made it known to the Bulls that they are strongly interested in dealing for Butler should Chicago elect to make him available.
The Bulls are not believed to be actively looking to move their All-Star swingman but have been listening to pitches for Butler, sources said. Butler initially rose to prominence as a two-way force playing for Thibodeau, the Wolves' new coach and president.
Sources say that the Bulls naturally would demand a significant amount in return to part with Butler, which likely translates to at least one front-line player in addition to a top lottery pick this month.
The Boston Celtics, who hold the No. 3 overall pick, are also known to have trade interest in Butler, while sources say that the Bulls are highly intrigued by Providence guard Kris Dunn, who is projected to be selected in the 3-to-5 range in the June 23 draft.
The No. 5 pick alone clearly wouldn't be sufficient to pry Butler from the Bulls, but Minnesota's own cache of trade assets -- given the various up-and-coming players on its roster -- would theoretically enable the Wolves to either deal with Chicago directly or assemble a multiteam trade scenario.
Signals from the Bulls and their Butler intentions, meanwhile, have been mixed. The club asked Butler to represent it on the dais at the May 17 draft lottery, but Bulls general manager Gar Forman -- after Chicago missed the playoffs -- did say shortly after the regular season ended that "we have to explore all options" when directly asked about Butler's future as a franchise cornerstone.
Butler signed a five-year deal worth in excess of $90 million last summer shortly after winning NBA Most Improved Player honors for the 2014-15 season.