Celtics

Celtics

Could Jimmy Butler land back in the Eastern Conference?

The New York Times’ Marc Stein cited sources Wednesday while reporting that disgruntled Butler and his agent had informed Minnesota Timberwolves ownership that the Miami Heat are now Butler’s preferred trade destination.

The Heat had one of the quietest offseasons in the NBA this summer, with their biggest splash coming only when Dwyane Wade announced he’d return for one final season.

A potential addition of Butler isn’t likely to make projected East frontrunners like the Celtics, Raptors, or Sixers start looking in their rearview mirrors, though it might thrust Miami into that next cut of playoff contenders alongside teams like the Pacers and Bucks.

A very different looking Celtics squad encountered a Butler-Wade combo during the 2016-17 playoffs and rallied out of a 2-0 hole to top the Chicago Bulls in six games during an opening-round series.

There had been a lot of hype this summer about whether Kyrie Irving might desire to team up with Butler, particularly with both able to reach free agency after the 2018-19 season. Irving has quieted that buzz, telling ESPN he hadn’t talked to Butler about the possibility of joining of forces since the summer of 2016.

Trading for Butler and committing big money to him next summer would likely take the Heat out of the running to add another max-salary player like Irving.