We’re now more than a week into the NBA season, and Jimmy Butler still plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. That was not expected. Butler was supposed to be in Miami by now, or at least anywhere but Minnesota, after he requested a trade last month.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Butler to Miami seemed a done deal. But then the T-Wolves got cold feet. Now, after a whole lot of drama and embarrassment, Butler is still playing for them, against his will, and in his first home game taunted the home fans that were booing him.
Regardless of all the drama, here we are. No Jimmy Butler in Miami — yet. Pat Riley recently told his team there would be no deal. While we doubt that’s certain, it would be for the best.
The Heat should forget about Jimmy Butler and move on to bigger and better things. This is why.
Photo by George Martinez
1. Trading for Jimmy Butler is a “win now” type of move that makes no sense for the Heat. The reality is this: The Miami Heat doesn’t have a realistic shot at competing for a title with or without Butler — not this season and likely not anytime soon. That’s just straight talk. Pretending otherwise ignores facts.
This entire season is about saying goodbye to Dwyane Wade. After that, it’s about building a squad with a larger window for winning a title so the Heat can wait out the current juggernauts. Right now, there’s a handful of teams that create a roadblock for the Heat. Miami would have to acquire Butler, then hope to sign two or three other stars to even get into the conversation.
Photo by George Martinez
2. The Heat would be paying Butler upward of $40 million even as he leaves his prime. Jimmy Butler turns 30 before next season starts. While that’s not exactly ancient, he has a lot of miles on his tires after playing much of his career for coach Tom Thibodeau, who’s notoriously careless with player rest. In the NBA it’s rarely a good idea to invest in a guard on the wrong side of 30, especially when that investment is monstrous.
Re-signing Butler this offseason (assuming he opts out of a $19-million deal) would mean dedicating nearly $200 million to a single player. And Miami has huge salary cap restrictions thanks to past terrible deals. Many of those contracts would have to be dumped, which would result in more lost assets and fewer reliable players. It could create a top-heavy roster that doesn’t win many more games than this current Heat team.
3. Miami should wait its turn and continue to build from within. The Heat has a great young core of players: Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, and Derrick Jones Jr. to name just a few. To acquire Butler, Miami would have to give up one or more of these players plus at least a first-round pick. The team would be much smarter to bide its time, add another solid young player or two this offseason, and build from within while looking to sign the right veterans to manageable deals.
Many may say mid-first-round picks aren’t worth much, but Butler himself was the 30th pick. You never know, and in Miami’s position, it makes much more sense to keep building.
4. The Heat has made such a mess of its salary cap, the team can’t afford Butler. The Heat, unfortunately, is not in the same place it was in summer 2010 when the team had nearly no financial obligations. For example: In 2020-21 the Heat will owe $16 million to James Johnson, $13 million to Kelly Olynyk, and $12.6 million to Dion Waiters. Also, there’s $23 million combined in commitments to Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow. There just isn’t much wiggle room here. Any roster additions would have to be of great value, from finds off the street, or from the draft.
As Heat fans learned during the LeBron era, it is tough to build around stars when you don’t have much money or many assets. At least then the Heat had three Hall of Fame players. Here, they’d have an aging Jimmy Butler and who knows what else.
Photo by Wendel20 / Wikimedia Commons
5. Contrary to popular belief, Butler isn’t “made for the Miami Heat.” Butler is a lot of things: hard-working, an outspoken leader, and good at basketball. The bad that comes with Jimmy Butler, however, is pretty obvious. If things go south in Miami, he’d have no problem throwing a grenade into things. That’s not the “Heat way” and doesn’t fit “Heat culture.”
If Butler has issues with Karl Anthony-Towns in Minnesota, a top-five center and one of the up-and-coming stars in the league, imagine how he might experience Hassan Whiteside. If Dion Waiters is untradeable and reverts to the player he was and always has been sans a couple of months in Miami, how do he and Butler get along? Does Pat Riley want to deal with that? Do Heat fans want to deal with that when a championship is far from likely?
Butler just doesn’t make sense for the Heat. It was a nice idea for a minute, but a deeper look and an eye to the future tell a more complete story: The team would be smart to pass on Butler.