The Miami Heat have emerged as the potential frontrunners in a trade for Jimmy Butler. While Jimmy listed the New York teams and the Clippers as his preferred destinations, there were rumblings that that list could be expanded. Just today, Marc Stein has reported that Butler’s team have said that Miami is now the place to be.
Jimmy Butler and his agent Bernie Lee have informed Wolves ownership that Miami is Butler's preferred trade destination, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) September 26, 2018
Miami has come up a lot in our discussions for trades. Part of the issue with trying to find a reasonable trade for Butler is that although he is certainly one of the best players in the NBA, his skill set and off-court demeanor are very specific. After the issues with the Bulls and the Wolves, it seems unlikely Butler would be happy being the lone star veteran with a group of young players. He is also ball-dominant and not a prolific three-point shooter, which makes him an odd fit with a team like the 76ers. Add in all of the Wolves specific contract and salary cap issues and there are suddenly a lot of complicating variables.
Thus, Miami enters the fold. They have a lot of weird contracts that can be used to set up a trade, a few young reasonably good prospects who are good but not too good that they would not be included, their own first round pick for 2019, and the potential ability to take on additional salary if the Wolves want to swap out the deck chairs regarding Gorgui Dieng’s contract.
Miami has also been star chasing for the last two years and ended up with their collective misfit of overpaid role players. The team is in the luxury tax with no room for future growth in a wide open conference. All they need is a star to bring them up a level.
Before diving into the different permutations of the trade, if the Wolves are going to trade Butler to Miami, Josh Richardson is going to be included in the deal. Richardson is on an awesome contract, $44 million over the next four years, and is a prototypical 3-and-D player who has the hints of being something more. There is a very real chance Richardson will be on one of the most valuable contracts in the league over the next four years as his position is one of incredible need and he can easily outplay his current contractual value.
This is what Zach Lowe had to say about Richardson:
So what are the options?
1) The Pipedream: Jimmy Butler and Gorgui Dieng for Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow, and Tyler Johnson
This trade is a slam dunk. The Wolves get a wing replacement in Richardson, a stellar center prospect in Adebayo, and have Winslow has a switch-everything backup wing that could become more. Moving Dieng for Johnson is probably the best salary relief option without involving a third team or dealing with the Hassan Whiteside issues, as Johnson’s contract ends a year earlier than Dieng’s and it adds another shooting wing to the roster.
This Wolves team is suddenly deep on young wings with Andrew Wiggins, Richardson, Johnson, Okogie, and Winslow. If this team no longer has Tom Thibodeau running the show, Johnson supplants Derrick Rose in the lineup. Johnson is also theoretically a lot easier to move for an expiring contract than Dieng considering he plays a position of need. A playoff team could talk themselves into Johnson for an expiring way more easily than they could talk themselves into a big man who does not shoot threes.
Theoretically, in this fantasy world, the Wolves could also steal Miami’s first round pick, but even in the most optimistic of scenarios I’m assuming the Wolves will do something wrong.
2) The Star for Prospects: Jimmy Butler for Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, and Justise Winslow
One of the issues with trading with Miami is that if Richardson is involved, keeping the trade simple involves multiple players due to salary cap issues. If Wayne Ellington was eligible to be traded it would make things simpler, but alas he is not until later in the season.
This trade is still good for Minnesota (at least compared to what the other rumors of actual trades may be) and seems to be better than any package the Nets or Clippers could realistically put together.
3) The Three-Team Swap: Minnesota gets Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos from Sacramento and Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson from Miami, Miami gets Gorgui Dieng and Jimmy Butler, and Sacramento gets Hassan Whiteside and Miami’s 2019 first round pick.
As reported by Woj, Sacramento may become involved as a potential landing spot for bad salary if they can extract a draft pick from the process. This trade routes Whiteside from Miami to the Kings (as the Kings surely need more centers), while relieving the Wolves of Dieng’s salary. The Wolves books get a lot cleaner next year as both Koufos and Randolph are on expiring deals, but in reality most of their salary (about $74 million) is still tied up in Wiggins, Towns, and Jeff Teague. This is why it really does not seem all that pressing to move Dieng off the books, as it is not like the Wolves will suddenly be able to open up an impressive amount of cap room.
However, in this trade, if the Wolves lose Winslow in restricted free agency, they do not have a ton left to show for trading Butler
4) The One Where We Become Jazz Fans: The Wolves trade Butler to Miami for Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow, and their 2019 first round pick while sending Gorgui Dieng and Tyus Jones to the Phoenix Suns for Tyson Chandler.
At the end of the day, the Wolves likely end up with slightly cleaner books and Tyler Johnson at almost $20 million a year with an upcoming late first-round draft pick. Yikes.
With any trade involving a superstar, there are a ton of moving parts. Miami may seem like the most likely option today, but that could change within the next 24 hours. However, if the Wolves seem like they can get a good deal involving Josh Richardson, it seems like they should take it.