3. Brooklyn Nets
For years, the Brooklyn Nets had wallowed in the pit of the Eastern Conference, decimated by a draft-day trade that stripped them of future assets.
Even without most of its first-round picks, Brooklyn still managed to find diamonds in the rough, enough to combine for a 42-40 record and an appearance in the 2019 playoffs.
The Nets may not be a ready-made team on the cusp of contending for a championship, but they’re not totally helpless either. D’Angelo Russell took a seismic leap this last season in making his first All-Star team.
Brooklyn can decide to match any offer given to him as a restricted free agent.
Before going down with a foot injury in mid-November, Caris LeVert was averaging 18.4 points in a shade under 30 minutes per game. Guys like Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris each showed flashes last season and are sure to take another step forward in their development.
Butler could come in and immediately contribute towards a team looking to build off last season’s success. As one of the hardest-working players in the league, he excepts just as much from his teammates.
Out in Brooklyn, that shouldn’t be a problem under Kenny Atkinson, who’s gotten the most from his players since becoming the head coach.
Russell could be brought back into the fold or the Nets could look to pair Jimmy with another star. Having already been linked to Brooklyn, Butler would likely get the keys to his own franchise in a massive media market while also remaining in the Eastern Conference.
Backed by a growing supporting cast and stellar front office, he could be enough to leapfrog them higher up the standings.