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Trade Grades: Jimmy Butler to Heat, Sixers Reload in 4-Team Blockbuster

Jimmy Butler gives Miami the in-his-prime, go-to scorer it’s desperately lacked the last few seasons, as the Sixers, Blazers and Clippers all strengthen their postseason-tested rosters.

Let’s try this again. After initially being reported as two separate trades involving Jimmy Butler, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside, Meyers Leonard, and Moe Harkless, all those names have coalesced—after some tomfoolery involving the Mavericks—into one, four-team supertrade involving the Heat, Blazers, Clippers, and 76ers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe

Miami will receive Butler—on a four-year, max deal—and Leonard (and his expiring contract) as part of the transaction. Philly will receive Richardson (and the cap space to sign Al Horford.) Portland gets Whiteside. And the Clippers will take on Harkless, as well as a future first from the Heat as a sweetener for facilitating the move. Let’s hopefully grade this trade for the last time.

Heat: A

This is still a win for Miami. The Heat get a star they’ve long coveted in Butler, as well as an expiring deal in Leonard—who makes sense as a backup center to Bam Adebayo. Moving off the inconsistent Whiteside allows Bam to take over as Miami’s full-time starting center, which is a plus for the Heat. Butler is an upgrade over Richardson at shooting guard, and he gives his new team the in-his-prime, go-to scorer it’s desperately lacked the last few seasons. Jimmy could also serve as a beacon for future stars as Miami’s cap sheet clears up in the coming years. 

In the new construction of this deal, the Heat reportedly part ways with a protected 2023 pick, but hang on to Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, and Derrick Jones Jr. That’s ultimately a net plus. Dragic and Olynyk still have value, whether as assets for future moves or capable veterans who can be a part of the rotation. The Heat are always a little loose with future picks, but the 2023 selection could possibly be recouped in another deal, and if not, Dragic and Olynyk should provide valuable support around Butler. Jones Jr. is a developmental project in a similar vein to Richardson. He’s still raw, but holding onto him after he flashed some potential last season is a good outcome for Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra. 

Clippers: B+

The Clips still have a max slot for Kawhi after this trade, and Harkless can soak up some minutes on the wing. Picking up a future first for taking on the cost of a capable if not spectacular rotation piece is smart management. Harkless could be dealt again if necessary, and his contract is off the books completely next summer. 

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As for Portland and Philly, they are receiving the same pieces in this megatrade as they were reportedly receiving when these transactions were separate. Here’s what I wrote about the moves for each team at that time: 

Blazers: B

Whiteside isn’t exactly a third star, but Portland has been looking for another impact player to help out Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. On paper, Whiteside makes sense. He’s an athletic rim defender and devastating finisher when focused. He can start while Nurkic recovers, and then slide to the bench and takeover the backup five role for Leonard when Nurk is healthy. Harkless became expendable after Portland brought back Rodney Hood and traded for a better shooter in Kent Bazemore. 

The problem with Whiteside is that “when focused” qualifier. He often drew the ire of his veteran teammates for his inconsistent play. It was not uncommon for Miami guards to scold him during games for his lackadaisical screen setting. The Blazers don’t have veterans like Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem to keep Whiteside in check, but they do have expectations. Maybe the spectre of playing for a contender will awaken Whiteside, who can be seriously impactful when he’s giving a full effort. Ultimately, it’s a sensible risk for a guy on an expiring deal who fills a need.

Sixers: B+

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. 

Mavericks: WYD?

I don’t understand why Dallas wouldn’t just take on Goran Dragic (an All-Star in the East!) and his expiring contract for free. He made a lot of sense as a fit next to his countryman Luka Doncic. Perhaps the Mavs are still saving their $20 million in cap space for an unexpected move.