What the Heck is Going On With the Jimmy Butler Sign-and-Trade? [UPDATED]


Yesterday, it was announced Jimmy Butler would be a member of the Miami Heat via a sign-and-trade from the Philadelphia 76ers. The Heat would send Josh Richardson and draft picks to Philly for Butler’s services after signing him to a four-year max deal. In order to clear the requisite cap space to sign the star shooting guard, the Heat reportedly planned to send Goran Dragic and his $19 million salary to the Dallas Mavericks. Then things got weird.

Marc Stein reported the Mavericks believed they were receiving Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones, not Dragic. The Heat were apparently surprised by this, and found themselves in a bind, because they had to trade Dragic to make the numbers work in a sign-and-trade with Philadelpha.

On Monday morning, Tim Cato, who covers the Mavericks for The Athleticwrote an article with Jared Weiss and Shams Charania breaking down the situation. Here’s what they say went down after initial discussions between the teams concerning a deal for Olynyk and Jones:

At some point, Miami became convinced that it was sending Goran Dragic to Dallas, league sources told me and The Athletic’s Jared Weiss. The two sides have been arguing over how the miscommunication happened and which side is to blame. Salary cap experts have said that including Olynyk and Jones would not have been a legal trade under the CBA…

Miami agreed to sign-and-trade terms with Philadelphia involving Jimmy Butler, but that deal, as constructed Sunday night, is dead, multiple league sources say. The Heat remain determined to trade Dragic to clear the necessary space. Miami was reticent to give up Jones, even as a sweetener for the potential Dallas cap-clearing maneuver, league sources say. But for at least one moment on Sunday, Miami’s front office believed the Dallas portion of the deal was complete. It only became publicly apparent that Dallas, the essential third team, was not participating when it informed Jones’ agent that the deal was off.

They later report the Sixers and Heat remain committed to finding a third trade partner, and will not stray from this course of action. The Sixers, of course, have already made several decisions off the foundation of the Butler trade, including signing Tobias Harris to a massive contract and stealing away Al Horford from the rival Boston Celtics. Philly is relying on Butler’s departure to make the numbers work.

It’s shocking NBA teams can suffer this level of miscommunication, but we’ve seen it happen before in very recent memory after a trade was called off because the Suns and Grizzlies mixed up MarShon Brooks and Dillon Brooks. Nonetheless, it seems likely the Heat will manage to send off Dragic soon, who remains a good player, even if he’s dramatically overpaid. But the Dallas debacle makes landing Butler that much harder.

UPDATE: The Heat traded Hassan Whiteside to the Blazers Monday afternoon in exchange for Mo Harkless and Meyers Leonard. This move will prevent the Heat from hitting the hard cap in a Butler trade, but they still must find a way to send out Dragic to match Butler’s incoming salary in order to get the trade done.

UPDATE #2: Adrian Wojnarowksi and Zach Lowe report the deal is done. The parties will include the Heat, Sixers, Trail Blazers, and Clippers. Terms have yet to be revealed, but it’s safe to assume the Whiteside trade is a part of the larger transaction in some way, shape, or form. Harkless will head to the Clippers. The meat of the deal, Butler in exchange for Richardson, remains unchanged.