The Rockets have put together numerous packages in an attempt to acquire Timberwolves swingman Jimmy Butler but Minnesota coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau has taken a hard and somewhat confusing stance on all potential deals, Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports.
Houston is intent on prying Butler away from the Timberwolves to strengthen its porous defense and give it another special talent to combat the star-powered Warriors. Minnesota is intent on dumping Gorgui Dieng‘s four-year, $62.8MM contract, which still has two more fully guaranteed years remaining, in any deal involving Butler, Iko continues. In general, the Timberwolves are treating negotiations as if they were dealing a difference-maker locked into a long-term contract rather than one who wants out and can opt out after the season.
With the Rockets already dealing with luxury-tax issues, absorbing Dieng’s contract would be virtually impossible. In the earlier stages of negotiations, the Rockets made inquiries to as many as six teams in the hope of involving a third party to facilitate a deal but failed to find a partner, according to Iko.
That’s when the Rockets decided to offer up to four future first-round picks for Butler, in all likelihood their first-rounders in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025. The reasoning behind that was to entice the Timberwolves to make the deal without Dieng.
The proposal would have allowed Minnesota to pursue a separate deal packaging Dieng and a pick or two to shed his salary. Even though it was willing to mortgage the future in a bid to win the title this season, Houston wasn’t confident that reported offer would get Thibodeau to soften his stance, Iko adds.
The Rockets have a couple of minor trade exceptions — one for $1.545MM and another for $2.85MM — but nothing substantial to help absorb the approximate $35.5MM in combined salaries of Butler and Dieng.