Last year Jimmy Butler was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers knew this was a rental, but they thought: “hey, maybe we can convince Jimmy to stay! Our window is now!”.
But as the ball bounced into the net for Kawhi Leonard in Game 7 and the 76ers ended their season earlier than expected, the question about Jimmy finally needed to be answered: Will Jimmy stay?
The answer (which we all now know) is that Jimmy did not want to stay. He was not convinced that the 76ers is where he should play the next four years of his basketball career. The Jimmy to Philly experiment was well and truly over.
But where did Butler want to play?
The answer was the Miami Heat.
But there was a problem with Jimmy signing with Miami… they did not have enough cap space.
A trade was necessary.
What was the initial trade?
Jimmy Butler was traded to the Miami Heat on a four year $142 Million deal, with Josh Richardson heading to the 76ers on 3 year deal in return (3rd year is a player option).
The issue is that the Heat still needed more cap space to make this trade work.
They had to unload the huge contracts of Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic.
Initially the Dallas Mavericks were part of the trade to soak up some of that cap and everyone was very excited about the possibility of Goran Dragic joining his European friends Luca and Kristaps in Dallas but alas the European Takeover was never meant to be and the Mavs pulled out.
The Heat were back at square one and needed more trade partners.
So in comes the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers to save the day.
So here is the deal as we know it (to be finalised hopefully on Sunday):
Miami Heat get Jimmy Butler from the 76ers and Meyers Leonard from Portland.
76ers get Josh Richardson from Miami.
Los Angeles Clippers get Maurice Harkless from Portland, a protected 2023 first round pick from Miami and the rights to Mathias Lessort from the 76ers.
Portland Trail Blazers get Hassan Whiteside.
Complicated, I know, but the final score is that Jimmy ends up in Miami.
But how did each team fair in this trade and who won?
Let’s start off with the real winner: Jimmy Butler.
Butler got what he always wanted: his own team. He is the number option on this team, he is their leader on offence and defence, no questions asked (sorry Goran). He has the spotlight all to himself.
Butler may never win a championship with this team, he may not even make playoffs but he doesn’t seem to care. He wanted his own team, wanted to have the farewell tour like Wade, loves the lifestyle of Miami and loves the worth ethic of Pat Riley and co. He just loves the Heat.
So yes Jimmy Butler won this trade, because he ended up exactly where he wanted to be and maybe, just maybe, this trade finally brings back Chicago Jimmy!
Will this work for the Heat?
Honestly, I don’t know if this trade is actually good for the Heat.
The Heat lost an up and coming solid 3 and D player in Josh Richardson, but replaced him with an aging star in Jimmy.
There are some real benefits for the Heat including shedding the terrible contract of Hassan Whiteside, which also allows Bam Adebayo to start full time at centre. This is a win for all parties, especially after all the personnel struggles between Hassan and pretty much all of the Heat in the past.
The Heat also picked up the expiring contract of Meyers Leonard who was a solid offense player in the Western Conference finals and will be a great bench piece for this team as back up centre. He can space the floor like Kelly Olynk and should work well with the second unit.
But overall I am unsure of this trade.
The Heat lost Wade and needed another star, I get that. Butler gives them that star, but he also gives rise to numerous questions like: how long can he stay healthy? Will he destroy their locker room? Can the Heat actually make a splash in the East? I just don’t know. I guess I will take the copout and say that only time will tell.
Are the 76ers better than last year?
This is a much bigger question than the single move of Josh Richardson.
The 76ers lost JJ Reddick (to New Orleans) and Butler BUT they resigned Tobias Harris, signed Al Horford and received Josh Richardson in the trade.
Their starting line up is insane.
This is a solid defence starting five and with Butler out of the picture, Simmons is now the PG full time in this line up which I love.
Josh Richardson fits perfectly in this line up. Known for his defence, he will be the perfect addition to Embiid and Horford, not to mention his enormous effort every night and consistent improvement in scoring (16.6 per season last year). He is also only 26, and on a three year roughly $23 million contract with a player option in 2022.
So basically the 76ers got a younger, cheaper, more defence focused wing to add to their team. Not a bad get for new and current the Eastern Conference favourites (again depending on Kawhi).
I actually like this for the 76ers and am excited to see how far this core can go!
A replacement for the injured Nurkic
The Blazers picked up Hassan Whiteside in this trade, a player who in around 23 minutes a game was 12 points, 11 rebounds with 2 blocks per game.
This was another weird move.
The Blazers were in need of a replacement centre with Nurkic injured until at least next year.
Whiteside is relatively equal offensively to their interim centre- Enes Kanter but Whiteside is far superior on defence. Whiteside is a defensive powerhouse and great rim protector, compared to Can’t Play Kanter.
The main issue is the $27 million contract of Whiteside, but the Blazers can pay that.
If the Blazers star studded backcourt can keep Whiteside focused and bring out the best in him, this could be a new big three (at least until Jusuf Nurkic comes back). So there is a clear upside.
BUT, we also need to remember that Whiteside did not fit in the Heat and could return to his childish ways, which could be devastating for Portland.
Hopefully this new chapter can bring out the best in Whiteside.
The Clippers still have a max slot right?
Somehow the Clippers got involved in all this.
The Clippers managed to get Maurice Harkless in their trade role, without infringing on their Max slot (reserved for the aforementioned Kawhi Leonard). Harkless brings playoff experience and can space the floor for the Clippers and is on an expiring contract so the Clippers need not commit long term.
This is a decent move for the Clippers who are very careful to keep their options open as they wait for the decision of Kawhi Leonard.
These trades were confusing, a little weird but should improve at least two of these three teams. I am excited to see how long it takes for Jimmy to explode the Heat locker room as the 76ers ride their starting five deep in the postseason.