Over the course of several weeks, the Heat have seemingly offered every trade package under the sun to try to get the Minnesota Timberwolves to make a deal. Ultimately, it resulted in Heat team president Pat Riley reportedly yelling expletives at Wolves head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau before hanging up the phone.
The frustration is obviously justified. The Heat have no chance of signing a player of Butler’s caliber in free agency due to their lack of cap space. Similarly, the packages they were offering were thought to be far and away the best offers the Wolves had received.
There have been recent reports that the Heat are still interested in Butler and would restart trade negotiations if the Wolves approached them, but it is also important to consider that Miami might actually be better off without Butler.
Here are three reasons why the Heat are better off not trading for the mercurial forward.
1. Josh Richardson is showing real star potential.
As the trade talks between the Heat and Timberwolves progressed, it became increasingly clear that the Wolves were not going to part ways for Butler easily. That resulted in the Heat offering up the player on their current roster with potentially the greatest ceiling: small forward Josh Richardson.
On paper, it seems like a fair deal. While Richardson has shown flashes in the past, he has never gotten close to the kind of consistent production Butler has displayed over the last four seasons. Still, recent performances by Richardson seem to indicate that he is on the verge of a very impressive season.
Right now, Richardson is averaging 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. Those numbers don’t even fully represent how impressive he has been so far. He dropped 28 points in Miami’s win over the Washington Wizards on Oct. 18, but he hurt his season averages when he struggled just two days later and finished a game against the Charlotte Hornets with just seven points. As he continues to play more games, it would not be a surprise if his numbers improved.
The former University of Tennessee star averaged 12.9 points per game in the 2017-18 season, the third season of his career. If he continues to produce like he has in the Heat’s first few games this season, it will signify a massive jump in production, a jump that is quite similar to the one Butler enjoyed in his fourth season in the NBA.
In the 2013-14 season, Butler averaged 13.1 points per game. One year later, Butler averaged 20.0 points per game and began gaining a reputation as a bonafide NBA star. It seems quite possible that Richardson may be on the verge of something quite similar.
2. Jimmy Butler is a locker room cancer.
There are two things that became abundantly clear in the last month when it comes to Butler. The first thing is that he is unhappy in Minnesota and is looking for a new start. The second thing is that no matter how talented he is, the four-time All-Star has become a locker room cancer.
When it became clear that Butler was not going to be traded in the offseason, the 6-foot-8 forward returned to the Wolves and participated in the team’s preseason scrimmage. Instead of trying to mend bridges during the scrimmage, Butler reportedly verbally attacked not just members of the front office, but fellow stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Butler was originally brought to Minnesota with the hope that he would be able to ignite Towns’ and Wiggins’ competitive spirit and teach them how to access their full potential. There is now concern that Butler may irreparably damage the confidence of his young teammates.
Considering the fact that the Heat’s roster is filled to the brim with promising, but unrealized talent, Butler could prove to be a horrible addition to the team.
3. The young core needs to grow together.
The final reason the Heat are better off without Butler is because in order to acquire him, they would have to undoubtedly break up their young core.
Aside from Richardson, other players mentioned in potential deals with Minnesota include players such as Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow. While trading young potential for established star power is a move as old as time in the NBA, that doesn’t always mean it’s the right choice.
For example, in order to trade for Butler just over a year ago, the Wolves sent Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and a draft pick that later became Lauri Markkanen to the Chicago Bulls. All three players have shown the ability to be productive in the NBA, with LaVine and Markkanen showing legitimate star potential. One could argue that the Wolves would have benefited by never making the trade and staying the course with a young core.
The very same could be said about the Heat. With players like Adebayo, Winslow, Richardson, and Derrick Jones Jr., the Heat have the makings of an incredibly solid core filled with youth and potential. In order to see their true potential as teammates realized, they will have to remain, well, teammates.
While trading Butler would help the Heat in the short term, letting their young stars develop could set the Heat up for success for years to come.