‘I’m still chasing another championship,’ says Pat Riley
Jimmy Butler is officially a member of the Miami Heat.
The four-team deal between the Heat, Blazers, Clippers and 76ers was able to become official Saturday with the NBA moratorium coming to an end.
As part of the deal, the Heat traded away wing Josh Richardson to the 76ers, Hassan Whiteside to the Trail Blazers and a protected 2023 first-round pick to the Clippers to acquire Butler from the 76ers, center Meyers Leonard from the Trail Blazers and cash considerations from the Clippers.
“We are thrilled to acquire Jimmy Butler and Meyers Leonard,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement. “They are both players who fit the mold of Heat culture perfectly.”
The Heat used the “stretch provision” when waiving Ryan Anderson to get below the $138.9 million hard-cap threshold, which was triggered by the sign-and-trade deal used to acquire Butler from 76ers. The four-team trade could not become official until Miami fell under the hard-cap line, and Saturday’s decision to stretch and waive Anderson accomplished that.
Butler, a four-time All-Star, is expected to sign a four-year, $142 million maximum contract with the Heat.
“Jimmy’s leadership, tenacity, professionalism, defensive disposition and his ability to create his own shot will improve our roster immediately,” Riley said. “Any time you can add a four-time All-Star to your roster, you make that move.”
It was only a matter of time before Butler found his way to Miami after he named the Heat as his preferred destination while trying to push for a trade from the Timberwolves back in September. The Heat tried to trade for Butler then, but Riley eventually broke off trade negotiations with the Timberwolves to avoid them from lingering into the season.
Butler, who turns 30 in September, was dealt to the 76ers in November after the Heat removed itself from trade discussions. He averaged 18.2 points on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 33.8 percent shooting on threes, 5.3 rebounds and four assists in 55 regular-season games for Philadelphia.
Butler spent the first six seasons of his NBA career with the Bulls, which drafted him out of Marquette with the 30th pick in the first round of the 2011 draft. He spent one full season with the Timberwolves in 2017-18 and split last season between Minnesota and Philadelphia.
Over Butler’s past five seasons, he’s averaged 21.2 points while shooting 46.1 percent from the field, 35.1 percent on threes and 84.9 percent from the free-throw line, to go with 5.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 332 regular-season games . He’s made the NBA’s All-Defensive second team four times in his eight seasons.
Butler’s close relationship with Dwyane Wade helped to make the Heat an attractive destination. They both played at Marquette, and the two played together on the Bulls during the 2016-17 season.
While the addition of Butler will get most of the attention (and deservedly so), the addition of Leonard helps make up for the loss of Whiteside. Leonard is expected to immediately slide in as part of the Heat’s frontcourt rotation, along with Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson.
“Meyers is a versatile big, a great shooter, can play inside and block shots,” Riley said. “The addition of both men puts us in a great position to win, and we welcome them to the Miami Heat organization.”
To speed up the process of getting to know his new team, Leonard plans to attend Sunday’s Heat summer league game in Las Vegas and also hopes to meet with coach Erik Spoelstra over the next few days. He also has set up a trip to visit Miami next week.
“When I came home after getting traded, I was in a little bit of shock,” Leonard admitted during a conference call with reporters. “But my wife is ecstatic. She’s excited for a new opportunity. She’s excited for the sunshine. This is not a joke, I came in the house and she knew I was a little bit in shock and she was blaring Will Smith’s ‘Miami.’”
The 7-foot-1 Leonard is due $11.3 million in the final year of his contract this upcoming season. He averaged 5.9 points on 54.5 percent shooting and 3.8 rebounds in 61 games, in 14.4 minutes per game, for Portland last season.
Leonard, who was selected 11th overall in the 2012 draft by the Trail Blazers, shot 45 percent on threes (50 for 111) last season and is a career 38.5 percent three-point shooter, a skill the Heat values in its power rotation players.
“I’m very excited to play for a coach and a staff under Erik Spoelstra and a legendary guy running the organization such as Pat Riley,” said Leonard, who learned of the trade during an offseason workout. “I’m very excited and there are numerous things I’m excited for — the culture, the kind of get-in-there-and-work-hard grit mentality.”
The 27-year-old Leonard has averaged 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds over his seven NBA seasons. Leonard had a career-high 30 points and 12 rebounds in a 119–117 season-ending overtime loss to the Warriors in May. He started two games in each of the past two seasons and 42 in his seven seasons with the Blazers.
“I’m excited to learn from coach Spoelstra and his staff and everybody around the organization,” Leonard said, “because although I’ve played seven years, I actually haven’t logged a ton of minutes and I’m just so excited to learn and become the best player I can be. Because when I’m taught something I’m really able to excel. I love to work and I love to win, so that’s what I plan to do when I come down to Miami.”