- Pat Riley got his free-agent whale. Jimmy Butler is headed to Miami in a three-team deal with the Sixers and Mavericks that puts the Heat back on the Eastern Conference map.
UPDATE: The Heat's sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler has expanded to a four-team deal. For analysis and grades of the new trade, click here.
Jimmy Butler will be filling Dwyane Wade’s shoes in Miami. Butler is headed to his third team in two seasons, as the feisty scorer is joining the Heat in a three-team deal, according to ESPN. Butler will sign a max, four-year, $142 million contract as part of the sign-and-trade, which will send guard Josh Richardson to Philadelphia, as well as Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones Jr. to the Mavericks in order to make the salaries work.
The Heat, Sixers, and Mavericks all seem to be making a sensible acquisition in the trade, let’s grade the deal for each team.
The Heat have been desperate for star power ever since LeBron’s departure in 2014, and Butler is one of the whales Pat Riley has been searching for ever since. There are two big keys for Miami in this trade. One, the Heat are parting with a limited number of assets. Though Richardson is a solid player on a reasonable contract, Butler is a clear upgrade at the same position. Olynyk had his moments playing alongside Bam Adebayo in Miami’s frontcourt, but moving off the final two years of his contract improves the Heat’s flexibility. (Jones Jr. was coming along nicely as a prospect, but the Heat are a little crowded on the perimeter.) Two, Miami signing Butler to a four-year max as opposed to a five-year max is not insignificant. Butler will be 30 at the start of this season, and he has Thibs-aided miles on his legs. If Riley hopes to build a true contender he will have to act quickly, but Butler’s contract won’t hamstring the team deep into the future.
It’s a no-brainer move for the Heat, particularly since they hang onto Winslow and Bam Adebayo. Butler gives Miami the star scorer its desperately lacked the last few seasons, and it’s possible he serves as a beacon for another star in the future.
Philly entered this summer with a lot of options, and with the Butler trade and subsequent Al Hoford signing, is locking itself into a Ben Simmons-Tobias Harris-Joel Embiid-Horford core for seemingly the next four years. If Butler was determined to leave, Philly could have done worse than picking up Richardson. He is signed for two more years for under $11 million a season, with a player option for $11.6 million in 2021. He is the ideal 3-and-D player for a championship contender like Philly. He will willingly play off the ball, hit a high clip of his outside shots, and guard one of the best perimeter players on the floor every night. And he will do all of this at a price less than J.J. Redick’s. In that sense, it’s a great deal for Philly if it was losing Butler no matter what.
The question that will be answered only after some time is if this was the best route for the Sixers. Did a five-year max make more sense for Butler or Harris? Was trading Butler for essentially Richardson and Horford better than trading Butler for some combination of Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker? (Though it’s possible Butler had no interest in Houston at all.) How the Sixers fit together after all of this will be fascinating to watch unfold. In a vacuum in which Butler was leaving no matter what, this is a perfectly good trade for the Sixers. Weighed against all of Philly’s options this summer and subsequent retooling, I’m slightly less optimistic than most.
With the star dominoes quickly falling, and role players picking up huge money elsewhere, the Mavs are adding Olynyk and Jones Jr. for basically nothing. Jones Jr. is the most exciting part of this for Dallas. He is wildly athletic and has shown promise on the defensive end. While Jones needs to improve his three-point shot, he will be incredibly fun to watch running the break with Luka, and his offensive rebounding is sneaky goodl. Olynyk is a more unclear fit. He will be a backup to Porzingis, and he’ll be the third banana in a frontcourt that already includes KP and Dwight Powell. Is that worth taking on the potential two seasons left on Olynyk’s deal? (He has a player option in 2020.)
Initial reports had the Mavs acquiring Goran Dragic, and that made a lot more sense for Dallas, who possibly could have picked up a point guard on an expiring deal and is also close with Doncic. But the Mavs still picked up two capable players for nothing in this deal. At the very least, both Olynyk and Jones Jr. will be ready to contribute to the rotation next season.