Miami Heat

Where does the Heat stand in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes?

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler, left, keeps the ball close as Houston Rockets’ PJ Tucker defends during a playoff game in April.
Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler, left, keeps the ball close as Houston Rockets’ PJ Tucker defends during a playoff game in April. Associated Press

While there are reports that Jimmy Butler has requested a trade, the Miami Heat apparently did not make his list of preferred destinations.

Just minutes after The Athletic reported that Butler requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, ESPN reported his three-team wish list includes the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks. All three of those teams are expected to have significant salary-cap space next summer, something the Heat is not projected to have until the 2020 offseason.

ESPN later reported: “Miami has also been a team with interest in Butler, league sources said, but the Heat don’t have the salary cap space in July to pursue him.”

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While a team won’t need cap space to re-sign Butler if it trades for him because of Bird rights, cap space will be needed in the pursuit of Kyrie Irving. There have been reports that Irving, who can become a free agent next summer if he declines his 2019-20 player option with the Boston Celtics, and Butler want to play together.

The Heat is currently about $6.3 million above the luxury tax threshold for this season, and already is committed to about $119 million in salaries for the 2019-20 season with the projected salary cap set at $109 million. That puts Miami about $10 million over the 2019-20 cap if the roster remains intact, which could create a roadblock in the Irving sweepstakes if it landed Butler.

Butler, a four-time All-Star, is set to earn $20.4 million this season and has a player option worth $19.8 million in 2019-20. He’s expected to decline the option and become a free agent, giving him the leverage to demand a trade to a team he would re-sign with next summer.

Although the Heat isn’t on Butler’s initial list of preferred destinations, it doesn’t completely rule Miami out of the race for the 6-8 forward. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Irving to the Celtics — a team that was not on his original wish list — last year, and the San Antonio Spurs also ignored Kawhi Leonard’s demands when it traded him to the Toronto Raptors earlier this offseason.

While it seems like a risky move to trade assets for a star who could end up leaving in free agency a year later, it paid off for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite not being on Paul George’s preferred list of destinations, the Thunder traded for George last offseason, and he ended up re-signing with the organization in free agency this summer.

The Have has been, and still is, hesitant to trade for players without an assurance they would re-sign in free agency.

The Heat has a few contracts that would make a trade for Butler work financially when matching cap space, with Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside the three players who could be traded for Butler in a one-for-one deal. But the Timberwolves are also expected to want younger players with long-term upside such as Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo in Miami’s case.

Bovada released odds on where Butler will play his first game of the season, and the Heat did not make that eight-team list. The Timberwolves are listed as a 3-to-2 favorite to keep him, with the Philadelphia 76ers second at 11-to-4 and the Knicks third at 15-to-4 followed by the Los Angeles Lakers (5-to-1), Brooklyn Nets (15-to-2), Celtics (15-to-2), Clippers (9-to-1) and Golden State Warriors (33-to-1).

SCRIMMAGE TICKETS

The Heat will host its “Red, White & Pink” scrimmage on Sept. 29 at 10 a.m. at FAU Arena to close out training camp.

Tickets are available for $1 on the Heat app and Ticketmaster.com, with proceeds benefiting the Miami Cancer Institute. There is an eight-ticket limit per transaction and parking is free.

Following the team’s annual Media Day at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday, the Heat will travel to Boca Raton for two-a-day practice sessions that will be closed to the public from Tuesday through Friday of that week leading into the scrimmage.

Miami begins its preseason schedule on Sept. 30 against the Spurs in San Antonio.

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