4:57pm: According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Heat have been the most engaged team with the Wolves on a potential Butler trade. Meanwhile, neither the Clippers nor Nets have gained much traction on a potential deal. Also, the Rockets have apparently joined the sweepstakes, but it will be a significant challenge to pursue Butler without a third team.
8:50am: Jimmy Butler and agent Bernie Lee have informed Timberwolves ownership that the Heat are the 29-year-old’s preferred trade destination, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). It’s an apparent change of course for Butler, whose initial wish list included the Clippers, Nets, and Knicks, but not Miami.
We heard earlier this week that the Heat had been as aggressive as any team in their pursuit of Butler, and Stein reiterates that point today, noting that more than 20 teams have at least inquired with the Timberwolves about their All-NBA wing (Twitter link). According to Stein, the Heat – like many teams – have found it hard to get the Wolves to clearly communicate their intentions and their asking price, but Miami is a landing spot that “strongly appeals” to Butler.
The Heat would be an interesting trade partner for the Timberwolves, whose head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau wants to remain in win-now mode rather than acquiring exclusively draft picks and young prospects in a Butler deal. Miami would like to hang onto Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo, but could put Justise Winslow and/or a 2019 first-round pick on the table. The Heat are also carrying several veterans whose contracts would align well with Butler’s for salary-matching purposes.
If Miami – or any other team – acquires Butler in a trade, his Bird rights would be dealt along with him, giving his new club the ability to offer a five-year deal worth up to a projected $190MM in free agency next summer.
While a Butler trade still appears likely to happen sooner rather than later, a pair of Tuesday reports indicated that teams with interest in the four-time All-Star have been receiving mixed signals from the Timberwolves on what kind of assets they value. Clubs who have spoken to the Wolves are also confused about whether to deal with owner Glen Taylor or front office execs Thibodeau and Scott Layden, since there’s a perception that the management and ownership groups may not be in agreement on the structure and timetable of a potential trade.