Few would have thought that Jimmy Butler would still be on the Timberwolves' roster as we prepare to wrap up the second week of the season and yet he still resides in Minnesota. But Butler could get his wish of a change of scenery if the Wolves opt to accept a reported offer of four first-round picks from the Rockets in exchange for the disgruntled star.
While the initial reaction to the offer was met with ridicule—and elicited memories of the deal Billy King and the Nets did to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics—this deal could help Houston immediately compile a Big 3 of James Harden, Chris Paul and Butler to challenge the Warriors in the West. The real question is: Should the Rockets mortgage their future for Butler or stand pat?
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Ben Golliver: I don't think Butler is worth four picks to them because I don't think he raises their ceiling that much. First of all, offensively, he's going to be a catch-and-shoot player, because that's what everyone does around Harden. That's not going to change, no matter how much talent you bring there, Harden is not going to radically alter how he plays. Second of all, in terms of defensive fit, they're going to need him to play the P.J. Tucker role, right? I mean isn't he almost like their backup center? I mean of course he's going to play wing guys too ...
Andrew Sharp: Sure.
Golliver: But part of why you're bringing him is to have like that interior force. He can do that but I don't think you really want him doing that for the next three or four years. And I do think it raises their defensive ceiling. It definitely increases their versatility. But I don't think that, based on how their early season has gone, that turns them into this A-list juggernaut, right? Like it may help them get back to where they were last year but I don't think it's like a transformative, lift you up on Golden State's level-type move.
And so then now you're banking on another team blowing up in the short term to open a championship window and I just don't think that that core group—Chris, Jimmy and James—is an ideal Big 3 where you're going to have to be paying those guys more than $100 million collectively and you're going to be filling up the rest of your roster with minimum-salary guys going forward. I just don't think they're that good of a core three that it's worth mortgaging your future to that degree.
Sharp: Yeah, and that's a perfectly fair way to look at it and I think the skeptic—and you are the skeptic—would say that Jimmy creates a lot of the same challenges for his teams that Russ creates in OKC. There's not really a way to make him part of a collective that utilizes everything that makes him great individually. And that's a real concern and should be a concern for anyone that's trading for Jimmy Butler. I just think that this particular Rockets team is already clearly headed nowhere, not just this season but next season.
As Chris Paul gets older, he's still going to be very expensive, James Harden is still going to be ... you're going to be coming into every season wondering what version of James Harden you're going to be getting. So they're not far off from things getting pretty dark in Houston. And, to me, I have no idea how the Rockets actually feel about this, but to me, that seems almost inevitable. And given that reality, I would roll the dice and see what's possible. It's not guaranteed to work but at least you have a shot because right now I think they're on the outside looking in.