Should the Miami Heat kick the tires on a Jimmy Butler trade?

Miami Heat president Pat Riley likes to poach big names on the trade market, is this the chance he’s been waiting for?

According to Bleacher Report, the Chicago Bulls are making Jimmy Butler available. Should the Miami Heat be placing calls to Chi Town and, if so, what should they be offering for Butler’s services?

Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg): There are only a handful of real difference makers in the NBA–LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Mario Chalmers–guys who can be the alpha on a championship team.

I don’t know if Jimmy Butler is one of them. I mean, he’s definitely a notch below the LeBrons and Hardens and Westbrooks and Currys and Durants. He’s more on the Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson level; a bonafide No. 2 for a championship team.

I think these things, and then he does something like this:

Butler scored 52 points in Chicago’s win against the Charlotte Hornets, and the Bulls needed every one of them. To get an idea of how great his performance was: the Chicago broadcast crew kept panning to Michael Jordan’s jersey hanging in the rafters in between bouts of screaming “SRIRACHA SRIRACHA.” With those sorts of games, maybe Butler can be a No. 1 option on a championship team. Maybe Butler, just now entering his prime at 27 years old, could be an MVP candidate. I think it’s worth it to the Miami Heat to try to find out.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote that the Bulls were seeking two draft picks and two starter-level players in return for Butler this past summer.

Miami can’t trade their first round pick until draft day (thanks to the Stepian Rule, they can only trade the pick by selecting the player and then trading that player).

Without moveable draft picks, it’s hard to get done. Unless Pat Riley can convince a third team to send their draft picks to Chicago for, say, Hassan Whiteside?

I’ve got an idea:

Portland gets: Hassan Whiteside

Chicago gets: Portland’s 2017 first round pick (top-eight protected) and 2019 first round pick, Evan Turner and Josh Richardson.

Miami gets: Jimmy Butler

Who says no? Portland fixes two problems: Rim protection and Evan Turner’s contract. Chicago gets everything they were looking for and Miami gets to see if Butler can be The Guy.

Simon Smith (@SimonABenedict): The Miami Heat should definitely register their interest with Chicago re: Jimmy Butler. But I feel they should only seriously pursue him if Pat Riley can be confident that he’s able to land an even bigger fish this offseason.

Butler is clearly a fantastic player, is in his prime and in the midst of the best of his season of his career. But whether he can be the certifiable No.1 option for a title contender is another matter altogether. Presently the Bulls are just a .500 team with Butler as their premier player.

As currently constituted, every player on the Heat roster should be available. If the Heat were to make a deal, I would make Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow the centerpieces of the trade. But this is only under the pretense that Riley has something bigger in mind. And by that, I’m referring to Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

Curry’s profile has taken a huge backseat this season, with Durant now assuming the role as the Warriors’ No.1 option. Combined with the drop in sales for his latest signature shoe, a move to South Florida could be the impetus the two-time MVP is desiring at this point of his career.

A Curry-Butler-Whiteside trio may sound far-fetched, but it’s not impossible.

Let the waiting game begin.

Frank Urbina (@frankurbina_): Jimmy Butler is an incredibly talented player. He’s 10th in the league in scoring at 25 points per game, and efficient despite his lack of three-point shooting. His true shooting percentage (59 percent) is higher than guys like LeBron James, Klay Thompson, and Kyrie Irving. The Bulls offensive rating is 17 points better when he’s on the floor. And his Win Shares (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player) is third in the league, behind only James Harden and Kevin Durant, two bonafide superstars. Add in the fact that he rebounds extremely well for his position (seven per game), and is a good distributor (five assists a night), and you have a guy who can be the centerpiece on a really good team.

Unfortunately for Butler, Bulls management decided to build a dumpster fire of a roster around him. There’s only one thing Butler is not great at, and that’s shooting threes. So what did general manager Gar Forman, and team vice president John Paxson, do this offseason? Oh, nothing, just crowd Chicago’s backcourt with two other players who have the exact same deficiency in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. Considering that Rondo is practically out the door already, you can surmise how that experiment went. (You’d think that the Bulls would have at least been smart enough to bring in a backup point guard who could shoot. But nope, Rondo’s replacement Michael Carter-Williams is by far one of the league’s worst three-point shooters, as well.)

Chicago’s foolishness shouldn’t sully our views on Butler as a player, however. In fact, it speaks to his brilliance that the team has an 18-18 record right now. Without a doubt, you can build a contender with Butler as your top guy. Would he need some help? Yes, but who doesn’t? LeBron has Irving and Kevin Love. Durant has Thompson and Stephen Curry. The best teams in the NBA all have more than one guy to shoulder the load.

The Heat need to do their due diligence and figure out what Chicago would want in exchange for Butler. If Forman and Paxon requested Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic, and Josh Richardson in return, I’m of the mindset that team president Pat Riley should absolutely pull the trigger. Butler is a two-way star, who gets buckets, sets up his teammates, defends well, and is still just 27 years old. Miami could replace the loss of Dragic through the draft. It is the year of the point guard in college basketball, after all. A lottery pick point guard, to go along with a core of Hassan Whiteside, Jimmy Butler, and Tyler Johnson would have the Heat back in the playoffs by next season. Bearing in mind Riley’s notorious distaste for long rebuilds, it’s obvious he would leap at that opportunity if it presented itself.

Rich Nurse (@followthepen): If the Chicago Bulls are making Jimmy Butler available, the Miami Heat should not hesitate to get on the phone and try to make something happen. However it would never get pulled off.

According to ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine, a Butler for Goran Dragic deal would work financially. And coincidently Chicago’s greatest need–with Rajon Rondo benched–is at the position of Miami’s biggest trade chip. Unfortunately for the Heat, the entire league has already seen the Dragic/Dwyane Wade combination struggle to work for a year and a half in South Beach.  

Cory Sanning (@sanningnba): While there is no denying Butler’s talent and ability, the question lingers: is he really a difference maker on the level of the LeBrons, Durants and Hardens? (In my opinion, no.)

That being said, Miami should definitely register interest in Butler. He’s savvy, an elite perimeter defender capable of taking any defensive challenge on any given night.

Pat Riley would have to be willing to give something up. Goran Dragic has been linked to trade rumors for the entire month of December, and for Riley to potentially swing Butler to South Beach, it may take giving up his franchise point guard.

Chris Posada (@CPoTweetsStuff): I mean, they can give it a shot. But they don’t really have anything to offer of value to the Bulls.

Justise Winslow is out for the year, and already has questions about his offensive ability. Tyler Johnson? Possible, but the pinch-a-penny-Bulls might be hesitant to be stuck with Johnson’s backloaded deal in case things go south with him. Josh Richardson is an option, but the Bulls likely could get back better younger players than him.

That leaves a deal of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside for Butler, which would basically just turn the Bulls into last year’s Heat. And as the Heat are learning now, maybe Dragic and Whiteside as your top two players might not be a thing you want to do.

That’s not even mentioning the lack of first round picks the Heat have to offer, which would likely be a non-starter for the Bulls if they’re dealing Butler. They’ll probably want a king’s ransom of picks in return if they’re going to nuke the whole thing, which points at the Celtics as the logical landing place for Butler.

The Bulls could be a good potential trade partner for Miami, but it would be better off as a Dragic for Rajon Rondo deal and some combination of the Kings pick/Bulls pick/Denzel Valentine/Bobby Portis. Otherwise, Riley shouldn’t bother picking up the phone.

Ivan Mora (@moraivan):  I think Miami should definitely pursue Butler and end the tanking. I know some people prefer that, but I don’t. I hate it. Wasting a whole season just to see if we get a lucky draft pick and then hopefully seeing if that pans out. I don’t like it.  

Riley is known for pulling off improbable trades and getting big names. Why should we doubt him now? Butler is an All-Star and a top caliber player in the East.  The Heat should definitely offer the Bulls whatever it takes, with the exception of Whiteside and Winslow, who I truly think are Miami’s future.

Malcolm Haynes (@realMGHaynes):  This is a no brainer. Miami should definitely pursue Jimmy Butler. This is a star driven league, and Jimmy Butler is clearly a star. Others have already laid out his stats. But, to summarize, Butler is a beast on both ends of the court and he’s in his prime.

The only reason you trade Jimmy Butler is to rebuild the team from the ground up which means the Bulls want picks and/or young players for Butler. Unfortunately, the Heat have nothing to offer. NBA rules prevent them from trading this year’s draft pick.

Some say Whiteside and Winslow should be off limits. I don’t. Winslow is limited offensively and may never get much better. Whiteside is a good but not great center. He consistently fails to show up against the elite centers. So, here is a trade I would do for Butler: Whiteside, Richardson and Wayne Ellington for Butler, Rondo, and 2018 second-round pick. The trade machine says this trade works financially.

Why this works for the Bulls: they get rid of Rondo, they acquire a dominant center, and two perimeter scorers, including a young Richardson.

Why this works for the Heat: they get one of the top all around players in the league to build around, Rondo is a quality backup for Dragic, and they get a badly needed draft pick for the future. A Dragic-Butler backcourt should be pretty sick and might be enough to entice free agents like Gordon Hayward.

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