ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski did what he does best this evening: broke the kind of story guaranteed to get everyone even remotely interested in the NBA talking. Today’s news: that Houston is still very interested in adding Jimmy Butler, and that their latest offer contains four first-round picks.
Story posting soon: The Houston Rockets are making a renewed bid to acquire Minnesota All-Star Jimmy Butler, including four future first-round draft picks in their most recent trade offer, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 25, 2018
The immediate reaction (though the sample could be biased) around Twitter: what are the Rockets thinking, offering four first-round picks for just one season of team control? (Butler has a player option for next season.) Many Brooklyn Nets jokes were made. But that’s missing the point completely; the Wolves would be insane to accept this trade. The Nets trade is an all-timer, but it’s not really relevant given the pieces involved. There’s a much more relevant offer from the 2017 trade deadline, when the Hawks reportedly offered the Pacers four first-round picks for Paul George.
That was another situation with a somewhat disgruntled player with real value, and when reports came out the Pacers had turned it down, people were incredulous then, apparently not realizing how little actual value those picks might bring back. The Pacers were mocked further when they turned Paul George into Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, and now they’re set up nicely for the next few years in the East.
Had they made the deal with Atlanta, most of those picks wouldn’t be realized for some time, and the same is true for Minnesota, because it’s not even a matter of waiting four years:
You can trade up to 7 years in the future. 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025 would fit. https://t.co/Sdbvcml9g6
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) October 25, 2018
And on top of taking the player, you have to wait for development, which isn’t a guarantee. Plus, Houston is really good! Maybe by 2025 it would look a lot different, but it’s hard to imagine the first two picks being anywhere inside the top-25 of the first round. While there definitely has to be a balance of long-term vision and short-term contention, Tom Thibodeau is both the head coach and president of basketball operations in Minnesota, and he definitely seems to care a lot more about the former than the latter.
Thibs will be excited to accept a deal where he maybe gets to coach one of these picks. https://t.co/usR0C6eUbB
— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) October 25, 2018
Which is why this whole thing is so weird. Thibs spent most of the offseason seemingly trying to get Jimmy Butler to a place where he would be happy playing for Minnesota this season, because the Wolves, with a healthy and productive Butler, could be really good! They’re only 2-3 now, but five games is nothing. It makes no sense for Minnesota’s camp to leak this now that Butler is actually on the court again. Sure, Minnesota could theoretically trade some of the picks for players now, but those picks don’t have as much value as Butler himself, and it might not even be close.
That leaves Houston, and the possibility that this is a way to try and ratchet up public pressure on Thibs and Minnesota (“How could you pass on four first-rounders for a guy who wants out?”) while also trying to put the word out to Butler, indirectly, that Houston is interested. Maybe it works, and Butler forces a deal. It’s still probably not going to be one structured this way, unless Thibodeau is out first.
So, basically, this is all probably just a giant smokescreen one way or another.