I hope Pat Riley and the Miami Heat do pull off the Jimmy Butler trade. The East needs some star power and Jimmy Butler’s brand of toughness, grit and in your face bravado is a near perfect match for what the Heat have built culture-wise after LeBron James divorced them. In the Heat locker room, an intense place to live for eight months, there will be no hurt feelings if Jimmy Butler goes all Jimmy Butler and berates everyone for not playing hard. For probably the first time in his career, he won’t be the toughest dude in the locker room. To his left and to his right- Hassan Whiteside excluded- the Heat play with guts. They make up for talent with want-to and willfulness and just plain Charley Oakley-Anthony Mason basketball morality. It is not quite the Knicks bully ball circa 1995 but it’s damn close.
On the Heat, Jimmy Butler gives the team a scorer, someone besides Dwyane Wade who can drop 30 and hit game winners and in one last possession can stop the best player. He might rub Whiteside the wrong way because he would take Whiteside’s shots away from him but the beauty about Butler is he doesn’t give a crap. If he didn’t care about pushing Derrick Rose out of his hometown, then Hassan Whiteside is irrelevant. If Whiteside can deal with the Jimmy Butler program, cool. If not, Butler will use Whiteside’s insecurities against him. But the Heat as a whole aren’t going to be afraid of Jimmy Butler like the Wolves were with their young kids used to being pampered and spoiled. The Heat have a hard core we are the toughest on the court mentality. It’s perfect for Jimmy Butler.
As he did with the Knicks when he left Los Angeles, Pat Riley has molded the Heat into his own tough, gritty, take no prisoners image. To acquire Butler he may have to say goodbye to Goran Dragic. The Wolves would ship Jeff Teague out and then Dragic would orchestrate for Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and unlike with Butler, Wiggins can go back to his ordinary self. Dragic isn’t intimidating.
Or the Heat might go the Justise Winslow James Johnson, Dion Waiters trade route, though why the Wolves would want any of them, I have no clue. Johnson is the best of the three, a two way player who would fit in with the Wolves young stars. Winslow is a lottery pick bust. He defends but has no offensive game to speak of. Waiters can score and score and score. But he just cannot stay healthy. He is always in street clothes.
If Riles pulls it off you just know given his experience that he is going to get the better of Thibs and the Wolves. Thibs is in a difficult place. He knows without Butler the chances of the Wolves making the playoffs are slim. Butler has drawn his line in the sand. He’s done with the Baby Wolves. While Dragic can be effective, he doesn’t have the ability to be a co-partner in leading a team to wins. His defense is a liability. If he returns to the West, he will have his lunch handed to him by Steph Curry, Damian Lilliard, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul. So for the Wolves they are at the crossroads. Butler wants out and the slim pickings don’t change their reality. Towns and Wiggins can’t carry the team to the playoffs.
In recent years, Miami has been criticized for the bloated salaries they gave above average never going to be All-Star players. Tyler Johnson will make $20 million this year. James Johnson will make nearly $15 million. Dragic, who was an All-Star replacement last year, will make $18 million. But one of the points of those contracts is that they allow you to flip for a star if and when that star becomes disgruntled, unhappy, desperate and rogue and forces his way out. It’s an advantage the Heat have over everyone else.
They can make a deal. They have Pat Riley. South Beach may be popping again in October.