Jimmy Butler trade grades: Heat get their star, Sixers get Josh Richardson in four-team deal with Blazers, Clippers
Dallas fell out, but Miami and Philly got the deal done by bringing in Portland and the Clippers
It took some maneuvering, but the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade from Philadelphia to Miami is reportedly complete.
In the deal, Butler will be going to the Heat and Josh Richardson will make his way to Philly, which were the two main pieces in the original deal that hit a snag. The change is that instead of Dallas being the third team and Goran Dragic going there, Dragic stays in Miami, which instead sends Hassan Whiteside to the Trail Blazers and a first-round pick to the Clippers. Finally, the Blazers will send Meyers Leonard to the Heat and Moe Harkless to the Clippers.
It's a lot of names going to a lot of places.
Here's a grade for each team's part in this trade.
- What they get: Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard
- What they lose: Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, future first-round pick
The Heat angled for Butler before Philly nabbed him from Minnesota last year, and now they finally get him after parting with what was probably their most prized asset in Josh Richardson. This is interesting. A few days before free agency began, I went on Miami radio and said the Heat should hold off on making a move for Butler, because, frankly, they aren't good enough even with him to be any kind of threat in the East.
But now I'm looking at this differently. A lot of money comes off Miami's books next summer, meaning Butler's value is about to be way more than this coming season. He's now the lure in 2020 for more impact players. If Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo take big steps forward, which they'll both be in a position to do, and first-round pick Tyler Herro looks like a hit, the Heat could finally be on their way off the treadmill of mediocrity. Something had to get the ball rolling back in the right direction, and perhaps Butler will be it.
Though the question has to be asked: How long will Butler remain an elite player? If you look at how other players who played a long time for Tom Thibodeau have aged, it's not terribly encouraging: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, to name a few.
As for Leonard, he's an expiring contract, plain and simple. He can be useful as a capable three-point shooting big as the Heat aim to get back to the playoffs next season before Leonard, Ryan Anderson and Dragic come off the books. Losing Whiteside is nothing. It's sad to say after they signed him to that disastrous $98 million deal in 2016, but he was an anchor pretty much the whole time, and by the end, it was often hard for Erik Spoelstra to even play him. Whiteside is expiring next year, same as Leonard, so it's a wash.
What Miami really lost was a first-round pick. Nothing more. Beyond that, it's the commitment to Butler and a calculated risk on how well he'll age and whether he can attract other stars. None of that is entirely clear, and this could look bad in a few years if Butler's production takes a dive on the back end of what Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting is a four-year, $142 million max deal.
But the potential for this being a positive and necessary move is definitely there, and frankly, the Heat didn't have any other options for bringing in a player that can reverse what is starting to be some pretty bad momentum in Miami.
- What they get: Josh Richardson
- What they lose: Jimmy Butler
One in, one out. I love this for Philly. Butler was a weird fit as a third wheel and was never going to be happy playing that way, and as stated above, I've talked to plenty of people around the league who question how Butler will age. Giving him a five-year max deal was sketchy for the Sixers, who now get Richardson, who is still just 25 years old, on an incredibly team-friendly deal that has three years and less than $33 million left on it.
Richardson will serve a perfect purpose with Philly as a capable shooter and secondary creator to go with his elite perimeter defense. He's really good, but in Philly, with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Harris and Horford around him, he won't have to be better than he's capable of being, which Miami was asking him to do. You look at those four names and add Richardson to the list, and that might well be the best starting lineup in basketball, even after losing J.J. Redick (signed with New Orleans) and Butler. The Sixers are all-in, and this is a really great move.
Los Angeles Clippers
- What they get: Moe Harkless, future first-round pick (Miami)
- What they lose: Absolutely nothing
Man, the Clippers just keep doing smart stuff. With available cap space, they can just absorb Harkless, who is a good rotational player on a team that continues to pile players like that up. The first-round pick is added to their trove of assets. Is this a signal that they are planning on missing out on Kawhi Leonard? Not really. They still have enough cap room for him and adding Harkless is just one more pitch they can make on behalf of a very deep, very balanced roster that can support Leonard in so many ways.
At worst, they miss on Leonard and add another asset to the pile to take another run at another big player, perhaps via trade. Harkless is an expiring deal, so he doesn't jam their books moving forward one iota. Absolutely nothing not to like here.
Portland Trail Blazers
- What they get: Hassan Whiteside
- What they lose: Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard
I don't completely get this for Portland. I mean, it's not terrible. It just doesn't accomplish a ton, unless Whiteside somehow reverts back to being a good player, which isn't impossible in another system. Whiteside gives Portland a center presence until Jusuf Nurkic gets back, and who knows when that will happen or how effective he'll be after close to a year off with a gruesome leg injury. Portland had big-time trouble on the boards at times in the playoffs, and rebounding is the best thing Whiteside does.
Still, Harkless is a better player than Whiteside at this point. He's somewhat expendable with the re-signing of Rodney Hood, but you can't have too many wings and he helped Portland's lineup versatility. They'll feel his loss in subtle ways, at least. All three of these players are on expiring contracts, so this is likely a one-year marriage for all involved. Not a ton lost for the Blazers, not a ton gained. Again, the X-factor is Whiteside somehow popping again with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum opening up the floor and perhaps his game.
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