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Report: Miami now Jimmy Butler’s ‘preferred destination’

Minnesota Timberwolves v Miami Heat

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 30: Jimmy Butler #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on October 30, 2017 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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Jimmy Butler apparently wants to spend his winter in Miami.

When Butler first told coach/president Tom Thibodeau he wanted out and to trade him, he had a three-team list of where he wanted to go: The Clippers, Nets, or Knicks. Since then Miami has come harder for him than any team, and now Butler has made the Heat his priority, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Thibodeau and the Timberwolves are under no obligation to send Butler where he wants to go, they need to get the make the best trade for themselves. However, everyone I have spoken to around the league has said the same thing Stein noted here (and others have reported before): Minnesota is giving mixed messages to everyone, and it’s hard to gain any traction in that situation. Thibodeau would prefer not to trade Butler and is dragging his feet, while owner Glen Taylor wants the soap opera to go away (Butler is not participating in training camp) and wants to get a deal done fast, and GM Scott Layden answers to both of them, so good luck with that.

Miami is the kind of culture — big focus on conditioning, rests players — that should be a personality fit for Butler. Should be. Remember he will become a free agent this summer and if the team that trades for him doesn’t woo and then re-sign him, it will be a big blow.

What would a Miami trade look like? Heat fans (and likely the front office) suggest something like Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow for Butler, but the Timberwolves don’t necessarily want a 32-year-old point guard who can become a free agent next summer as the core part of the deal, even if Dragic is an All-Star level player. Minnesota already has Jeff Teague at the point (unless the third team in the deal is Phoenix, which could take Teague on and get a needed point guard out of this). Also something to watch, Miami doesn’t want to add salary in this trade, they are already into the luxury tax.

Minnesota is rumored to want Josh Richardson to be the key piece heading back (Miami is reluctant to throw him in a deal), Winslow probably is part of whatever gets done (I have heard Bam Adebayo is not someone the Heat want to give up), then it’s a matter of what other picks and players/salaries are needed to balance it out. Miami would throw in Dion Waiters, but teams knew he was available all summer and didn’t bite, Minnesota isn’t going to now. Also in this, the Timberwolves would love to dump the Gorgui Dieng contract so this could be a three-team deal with Sacramento taking on Dieng in exchange for some draft picks or young players to go with their rebuild.

However it gets structured, that deal is better than most of the offers the Timberwolves likely will see. (In theory, the Clippers could put together a more veteran-heavy offer if winning this season is what matters to Thibodeau.) Miami’s offer likely makes as much sense as the Timberwolves are going to find in a shotgun trade like this one.

The problem is pinning the Timberwolves down and actually getting the trade done.