Just days before Tuesday’s start of training camp, the Miami Heat find itself in the middle of trade speculation.
The Heat was aggressively pursuing a a trade for disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler on Sunday, targeting a player who has long been a favorite of the organization, according to several league sources.
Heat president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra always have admired Butler, not only because of his offensive game, but because of his competitive nature and strong defensive skills, which resulted in him being named second-team All-NBA defense four times in his career.
The Heat has told teams this offseason that Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters are available, according to two opposing front office executives who have spoken to the Heat. But the Heat knows a different combination of more attractive players will be needed to pry away Butler, who averaged 22.2 points per game for Minnesota last season.
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The Heat has been very reluctant this offseason to part with Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo, and it’s unclear if Miami would be willing to include Richardson in a deal for Butler. (Miami’s preference would be not to include Richardson.)
Miami also prefers to keep Kelly Olynyk. But Justise Winslow could be put in play because of questions about whether the Heat will keep him if he enters restricted free agency next summer. Winslow and the Heat are not close to a contract extension, with a mid-October deadline looming, and one GM said he could command a deal starting at $9 million in a new contract.
As of Sunday afternoon, there had been no known contact between the Heat and Butler’s camp and no indication that the Timberwolves had reached the point of allowing Butler to speak with other teams. But Riley has been pursuing Butler as aggressively as any front office executive, according to ESPN.
Butler requested a trade from Timberwolves earlier this month, with ESPN reporting his initial three-team wish list included the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks.
Butler 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.
In free agency next offseason, Butler could be eligible to sign a five-year, $190 million contract extension with the Timberwolves or any team he’s traded to. He can sign a four-year, $141 million deal with a new team in free agency.
Although the Heat isn’t projected to have cap space until the 2020 offseason, any team that trades for Butler will also acquire his Bird rights. Bird rights allow for a team to exceed the salary cap to re-sign a player.
The Heat will hold its annual media day Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena before opening training camp Tuesday at FAU.