The Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves continued discussing a trade involving disgruntled guard Jimmy Butler on Wednesday amid a New York Times report that Butler has informed the Timberwolves that he would prefer to be traded Miami.
The Heat, Wolves and other teams have discussed various permutations in the Heat’s aggressive pursuit of a trade for the four-time All-Star, who has asked for a trade and informed the Timberwolves that he would not re-sign with them as a free agent next summer.
An executive with another Eastern Conference team said he believes Miami is the leading contender for Butler but that wasn’t based on anything the Wolves have told him. And ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Miami “has been the most engaged team with Minnesota” on a Butler trade.
Heat president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra are big fans of Butler, according to league sources, and the Heat believes it would have a good chance to re-sign Butler next summer, and Wednesday’s report by The Times’ Marc Stein would reinforce that belief. ESPN”s Brian Windhorst reported Spoelstra is pushing the front office to acquire Butler.
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But Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said the team isn’t limiting trade discussions to the teams for which Butler prefers to play. According to ESPN, Butler also has interest in the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks.
“We’ll look at what’s out there and if something is good for us that’s what we want to do,” Thibodeau said Tuesday. “We’re going to honor his request but we’re not going to do a bad deal. I think we made that clear [Monday].”
The Heat and Wolves have been trying to structure a deal that would be palatable to both parties. The Heat has been reluctant to include Josh Richardson, preferring instead to have a Butler/Richardson tandem that would be among the league’s best for a small forward/shooting guard pairing.
The Wolves reportedly are asking for stars, draft picks and starters for Butler. The Heat lacks the first but could offer its first-round pick in 2019 and also could dangle multiple starters.
Though the preference is to keep Richardson, Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and Justise Winslow, the Heat likely would need to relinquish at least one and possibly two of those in a trade for Butler. ESPN’s Windhorst reports Dragic has been made available to Minnesota in trade talks.
The Heat has spent months very much willing to deal Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson and those three remain available this week, according to league sources.
The Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns reportedly are possibilities to be included as a third team to facilitate a Butler trade.
On Wednesday afternoon, Wojnarowski said “Phoenix’s pursuit of a starting point guard could factor into the Jimmy Butler trade discussions as a potential third-team partner. ... If Minnesota trades for Goran Dragic in a Miami/Butler scenario, that could make Wolves point guard Jeff Teague available for Suns.”
Before the Heat completed its morning session at training camp Wednesday, a team spokesman said neither the players nor the staff would address trade speculation. But then coach Erik Spoelstra did answer a question on dealing with outside noise such as trade rumors.
“A lot of teams are dealing with a bunch of noise,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the reality of this business. If you just try to brush it under the rug and say it doesn’t exist, that’s not healthy either. You have to be honest about whatever emotions that you may be going through and then control the controllables.
“Focus on what you can control and that’s practice, that’s meetings, preparing in between all the sessions. The world and the league that these guys have to navigate through is much different than it used to be and that’s league wide. So I think these are very valuable lessons on compartmentalizing and keeping your attention on what matters most.”
Following Wednesday’s report that Miami is the preferred destination, Bovada -- an online sports book -- now has the Heat as the favorite to have Butler on its opening night roster at 6-to-5.
The Heat would not have the cap space to sign Butler outright as a free agent next summer if it doesn’t trade for him, with Miami already about $10 million over the projected $109 million salary cap for 2019-20.
But the Heat or any team acquiring Butler in a trade would also acquire his Bird Rights, meaning the Heat could surpass the cap to sign him to a five year $190 million extension.
Such a deal would come with cap hits of $40 million and $43 million in the final two years of the deal, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported.
Butler, 29, averaged 22.2 point, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists last season while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 35 percent on threes.
He has ranked in the top 10 in minutes over the past five seasons.
Thibodeau met with Butler on Monday and tried to convince him to stay but Butler remains insistent on being traded, according to ESPN. Teams also have been in touch with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor in an attempt to make a deal.
Butler is being held out of Wolves camp, reportedly at his request.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he played a pickup basketball game Tuesday in Minneapolis. The Wolves say Butler needs to continue rehabilitating his right wrist after surgery in July but Thibodeau has said Butler will resume practicing next week if he hasn’t been traded by then.
Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, could not immediately be reached in the wake of The Times report.