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The Houston Rockets breathed new life into the Jimmy Butler trade saga Thursday by offering a staggering amount of draft picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Just how staggering was the offer? The Rockets have reportedly put four first-round draft picks on the table.
Rockets’ Jimmy Butler offer stretches the bounds of NBA draft rules
It appears the Rockets would very much like to bring in Jimmy Butler. So much that they are offering literally every first-round pick they’re allowed to send in a trade by the NBA, thanks to draft rules. Teams are not allowed to trade first-round picks in consecutive years and can’t trade out a pick farther than seven seasons.
So according to the rules, this offer would likely be the Rockets’ first-round picks in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025. Per Wojnarowski, the picks would come with limited protection.
However, rules when it comes to protecting picks in this situation are tricky. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, picks cannot be protected when a bundle of them are traded for alternating years, unless the protection does not allow the pick to roll over to the next season. So if the Rockets’ pick were to somehow end up in the lottery and their pick fell inside the protected area, there would be few possibilities for the Timberwolves to recoup value for that pick.
Why the Rockets would want Jimmy Butler
The Rockets likely wouldn’t make such an aggressive offer unless Butler agrees to sign an extension with the team beforehand. Butler is a free agent after this season, and the Rockets likely aren’t going to mortgage their future for one year of team control for an elite player.
The other major factors working against the Rockets are time and money, as they might not have enough of either to make the trade work.
If Butler does indeed head to Houston, the Rockets would get yet another elite player to help their effort to break the Golden State Warriors’ stranglehold on the Western Conference. The team came close last season in the conference finals, only to lose Chris Paul in Game 5 and blow a 3-2 lead.
Houston brought back most of that team from last year, but lost an important player at the wing in Trevor Ariza and depth like Luc Mbah a Moute. They did bring in Carmelo Anthony, but Butler would obviously a massive improvement over any of those players.
Would the Timberwolves really do this?
The NBA hasn’t seen a deal with a litany of draft picks like this since the Brooklyn Nets’ infamous Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade, but it’s very unlikely the Rockets’ offer would benefit Minnesota like the Nets deal, which allowed the Celtics to construct one of the most robust rosters in the game today
With Butler on board, it is unlikely that the Rockets will fall apart to the degree of the Nets. It’s also unlikely the team doesn’t insist on protection for the draft’s top selections, like the picks that netted Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for the Celtics.
Limitations like that on a massive draft pick haul would be reason for the Timberwolves to look elsewhere, especially as Tom Thibodeau tries to construct a winner in the Twin Cities while he still has his job there.
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