The Houston Rockets have recently shown renewed interest in trading for Jimmy Butler. According to Woj, they are willing to offer 4 first-round picks to get him. This trade has not actually happened, yet, but if it’s true the Timberwolves need to accept it. There is no way they will find a better offer at this point of the Butler drama. The proposed trade would likely be Brandon Knight, Marquesse Chriss, and 4 first round picks for Jimmy Butler. The deal can’t happen until October 31st if it involves Knight because of NBA trade rules. But, assuming Thibodeau doesn’t mess up the deal, which side would win the Butler trade?
For Minnesota, this is a great deal. Quite frankly they could not ask for more out of a Butler trade. While Brandon Knight and Marquesse Chriss aren’t the best players the 4 first rounders gives them a ton of assets. They can use these picks to get rid of bad contracts such as Gorgui Dieng or package in a trade. Also, NBA rules would force these picks to be 2019, 2021, 2023, and 2025 first rounders. Given that some of the picks are so far away there is a chance they could lottery selections if the Wolves choose to keep them.
The obvious negative of this trade is that Minnesota would lose Jimmy Butler. Butler carried this team to their first playoff appearance in 16 years, and without him, the team struggled a lot. There is no question they would miss the playoffs again this year and likely for the next couple of years as well. The last thing this organization wants is another long playoff drought, but they don’t really have a choice. The west is so strong (even the Pelicans are looking great) that without Butler they are going to go through a rough patch.
Although it’s not ideal, losing Butler does have some benefits. For starters, they wouldn’t have to pay him the 5-year $188 million max contract he would likely demand. The Wolves would be able to preserve the little cap flexibility they have, allowing them to make moves in future free agencies. Because of Wiggins’ and Towns’ rookie supermax deals, two players will take up over half the team’s salary for the upcoming years. Butler didn’t fit Minnesota’s timeline either. By the end of his deal, Butler would be 35 while getting paid over $40 million while Wiggins and Towns entered their primes. Even though the Wolves would return to the lottery trading Butler is their best chance of keeping flexibility for the future.
For the Rockets this trade is an obvious win-now move but it might not pay off. It only makes sense if they think they can win a championship this year with Butler. The problem with this idea is the Warriors are still really good. Adding DeMarcus Cousins gave Golden State an all-star at every position and the Rockets can’t quite match up to that. If they can’t topple the Warriors, even with Butler, they will face lots of problems.
Houston’s future will be an absolute mess after this season if they pull the trigger on this trade. They already have Chris Paul, James Harden, and Clint Capela on huge deals and they would have to resign Butler to one this offseason. They would fall deep into the luxury tax, which is something no owner wants to deal with. Not to mention Butler will be 31 next season and will start declining. Having two declining players on big deals is not good for any franchise. All of these problems come up without even mentioning the loss of draft picks. Giving away 4 first rounders is extremely risky and if this team starts to go downhill, they will have no safety net. It would be a dangerous move for the Rockets, but it might just pay off.
MY OPINION ON THE BUTLER TRADE
Personally, I believe Minnesota actually wins this trade. Butler clearly isn’t the right fit for the team and getting 4 first rounders in return gives them a lot of flexibility. Houston will be great this year if they make the trade but will be left with multiple aging players on expensive deals. That is, of course, assuming Butler stays in Houston. Unless the Rockets truly believe they can win a championship this year, this trade simply doesn’t make sense for them.