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Houston Rockets: Is Jimmy Butler worth 4 first-round draft picks?

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler (23) (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler (23) (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets recently offered the Minnesota Timberwolves four first-round draft picks for Jimmy Butler. Is that too much for the 29-year-old star?

The Houston Rockets have shown the Minnesota Timberwolves that they are serious about completing a deal for Jimmy Butler. Since Butler first requested a trade from Minnesota over a month ago, Daryl Morey has been right in the mix, negotiating deals for the four-time All-Star.

Houston’s most recent offer to the Timberwolves is centered around four first-round draft picks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Four draft picks is the most a team can offer in a deal, because NBA rules restrict teams from trading picks further out than seven seasons and the picks also have to be in non-consecutive years.

If the Rockets pull this trade off, it will likely happen sometime on or after Wednesday Oct. 31. On that date, a two month trade restriction on Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss that prevents them from being traded in combination with another player will be lifted.

The Rockets are over the salary cap, so they will have to match Jimmy Butler’s $20 million salary in a trade. Knight and Chriss will make a combined $17.4 million next year, which fits within the NBA’s 125 percent plus $100,000 rule. A deal involving Knight, Chriss and four first-round draft picks for Butler could work.

However, is Jimmy Butler really worth four first rounders and two young players?

Are the Rockets offering too much for Jimmy Butler?

Houston is essentially giving up some of their long-term assets in order to load up on short-term talent for a shot at a championship. After dancing with the Warriors for seven games in the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets are confident they have a shot at beating them the second time around with the right roster.

Houston isn’t the first team that has been willing to move four first-rounders in an effort to build a contender. In 2013, the Nets acquired a package centered around Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics for five players and Brooklyn’s first-round picks in 2014, 2016, 2017 (via right to swap picks) and 2018.

The Celtics took Jaylen Brown third overall in 2016, Jayson Tatum with the third pick in 2017 and they traded the 2018 pick in a package including Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder for Kyrie Irving last summer. That 2018 first-round pick turned into Colin Sexton for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Boston essentially built a core for years to come around a superstar point guard and two talented, athletic wings from the haul they received from Brooklyn. This example will make a lot of fans uneasy about the Rockets current trade proposal, but Houston’s situation is a bit different.

Brooklyn acquired Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry, who were all at least 35 years old at the time and were clearly over the hill. Garnett lasted just a season and a half with Brooklyn and he spent the most time with the Nets of the three. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, Brooklyn’s other core players at the time, were also aging and soon departed from the team, sending the Nets to the bottom of the standings. This is why the picks Boston received turned into lottery picks.

Chris Paul is nearing the end of his prime years, but at 29, Harden and Butler still have at least four to five seasons of All-Star basketball left in them. Assuming the Rockets hang on to Harden, Butler and Capela, Houston’s 2019, 2021 and 2023 first round picks are unlikely to be very high because the team will be too good.

Maybe the 2025 first rounder could fall in the lottery as Harden and Butler would be in their mid-30’s, but that all depends on how gracefully they age. Pierce and Garnett were already way past their prime when Brooklyn traded away all those picks for the pair. Harden and Butler are at their peak. All things considered, the Rockets are very unlikely to land anything higher than a role player with any of the mentioned future first-round picks.

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When Daryl Morey traded for Chris Paul in the summer of 2017, he made it clear that the Rockets were going after nothing less than a championship. Landing Jimmy Butler without giving up any rotational players would obviously be a great aid to Houston on their road to Larry O’Brien Trophy No. 3. Let’s go for it.

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