- Star wing Jimmy Butler has made it abundantly clear that he wants to leave the Minnesota Timberwolves.
- After trade talks stalled with other organizations, the Houston Rockets reportedly offered a deal to Minnesota that included four future first-round picks in exchange for the four-time All-Star.
- The internet went crazy over the news, but the offer isn’t nearly as outlandish as it may sound.
The Houston Rockets went all-in on Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler. Or did they?
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets offered to send four future first-round picks, Marquese Chriss, and Brandon Knight to Minnesota in exchange for the four-time All-Star. The internet nearly exploded after Wojnarowski released the details of the offer, and ESPN’s Keith Olbermann was right there with them:
But Houston’s four first-rounders may not be worth nearly as much as meets the eye.
According to USA Today’s Eric Griffith, the NBA’s seven-year rule prohibits teams from dealing away picks more than seven years beyond the date of the trade, and the Stepien rule prevents the Rockets from offering picks in two consecutive years. Although Houston offered the maximum number of picks possible given those rules, they would necessarily have to come every other year – 2019, 2021, 2023, and 2025.
Wojnarowski reported that “protections on picks in this proposed deal would be limited” because of these two rules. For example, the Rockets could not offer their 2022 first-round pick as protection for a high 2021 pick because rolling the first-round pick to 2022 would result in back-to-back picks and thus violate the Stepien rule. The Rockets could potentially safeguard some of the picks by offering two second-round picks in lieu of a first rounder, but the Timberwolves almost certainly would not be willing to accept that stipulation for all of the drafts.
Regardless, this trade would severely restrict Houston’s flexibility in the lottery, and prevent them from trading any more first-round picks in that seven-year span.
That being said, the Rockets are currently a consensus top team in the NBA, and if all goes according to plan and Houston acquires Jimmy Butler, it seems unlikely that they would have to send any lottery picks to the Timberwolves. These picks would probably land somewhere in the mid-to-high 20s. The Rockets’ front office is banking on their newly-stacked squad’s performance – and record – to ensure that the deal doesn’t wind up hurting them the same way the Brooklyn Nets’ infamous trade with the Boston Celtics did.
The odds of Minnesota’s front office agreeing to the deal look increasingly slim, according to NBA Insider Shams Charania. If Houston is correct and the four picks wind up coming late in the first round, the Timberwolves would have gotten the sour end of the deal. It is a significant risk for Minnesota head coach and president Tom Thibodeau, who has been reluctant to trade Butler away from the beginning and wants to focus on winning now with superstars Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins on the roster.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 26, 2018
As enticing as it may be, the Timberwolves are understandably reluctant to take this deal. They haven’t officially made any moves on the offer in either direction, but it looks like this saga could finally come to a close soon:
Houston would need to send at least $16.3M in salary to acquire Jimmy Butler. Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss are enough financially once both are eligible to be dealt on October 31.
Most NBA execs don't currently expect the Butler saga to drag on for much longer than that… https://t.co/MBpolDRAUA
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) October 25, 2018