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

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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.

Greek Freak makes himself at home in Paris, scores 30 points, Bucks beat Hornets

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PARIS (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 12 rebounds and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-103 on Friday night in the first NBA regular-season game in France.

Milwaukee improved to 40-6 with its eighth straight victory. The Bucks have the best 46-game start in franchise history. They were 39-7 in 1970-71 when they went on to win the NBA championship.

Eric Bledsoe added 20 points and five assists for the Bucks.

Malik Monk led Charlotte with 31 points. The Hornets have lost eight in a row.

Milwaukee rallied to tie it at 78 going into the fourth quarter. Pat Connaughton put the Bucks in front with a dunk in the fourth. Then Antetokounmpo got going, drawing a foul as he slalomed through the defense.

 

Report: Needing depth at center, Dallas trades for Willie Cauley-Stein from Golden State

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Dallas took a big hit this week when center Dwight Powell went down with a torn Achilles. The Mavericks’ starting center was a critical pick-and-roll partner with Luka Doncic, a roll man and vertical threat that allowed Kristaps Porzingis to space the floor (along with other Dallas shooters), plus Powell was a solid team defender.

Willie Cauley-Stein is going to get a chance to fill that role.

Golden State is trading Cauley-Stein to Dallas for a second-round pick.

Dallas just made a trade for Justin Patton to waive him and clear out a roster spot for this trade.

Cauley-Stein is averaging an efficient 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds a game for Golden State. More importantly for Dallas, he provides the athletic dive man, a threat on the roll they need to keep things open for Doncic.

Dallas could have waited out the market to try and land a better center, but this gives them a reliable fit for minimal cost (a late second-round pick, they kept Golden State’s own second rounder). Cauley-Stein will split time at the five with Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic.

For those of you crunching the numbers at home:

For Golden State, in the short term, this move creates a couple of open roster spots. One of those likely will be used to re-sign Marquese Chriss, who was waived last week. The other roster spot likely will go to Ky Bowman.

Golden State adds a pick and a trade exception for sending out a player that was not part of their long-term plans anyway.

In trade about money/roster space, Mavericks send Isaiah Roby to Thunder for Justin Patton, cash

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We have a trade…

That shifts things around on the end of the bench in Dallas so they could create a roster spot forWillie Cauley-Stein (a trade that was announced later). A trade that is mostly about saving some and rolling the dice on a project in OKC.

Dallas is sending Isaiah Roby to OKC for Justin Patton, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

What is really going on here?

For Dallas, this is about clearing out a roster spot, it plans to waive Patton. That roster spot is going to Willie Cauley-Stein in a trade with Golden State, that was just reported. The Mavericks lost center Dwight Powell to a torn Achilles this week and needed to bring in a player or two — via trade or free agency — to help bolster the existing front line of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic. Here is Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.

The move also clears out a little cash for Dallas.

In Oklahoma City, they get a young player to develop but also save some money.

Roby has not played in an NBA game yet. The rookie out of Nebraska — taken 45th overall last June — is a development project, but one who passes the eye test for an NBA power forward. He did a lot of things well in college — scoring, rebounding, works hard off the ball — but can he do that at an NBA level? He’s played in nine G-League games this season, averaging 9.2 points and 7 rebounds a game.

 

Bulls: Lauri Markkanen out 4-6 weeks

Lauri Markkanen
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Lauri Markkanen ranked No. 34 on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years entering the season.

Instead of building toward that promise, Markkanen has underwhelmed. His shot just isn’t falling as hoped.

Now, the news get even worse.

Bulls:

The Bulls (2.5 games and two games out) have been hanging in the playoff race. But there was already little reason to believe they’d make a postseason push. Now, there’s even less rationale to predict a longshot postseason run.

Markkanen will be eligible for a contract extension next offseason. The 22-year-old can still fulfill his potential as a 7-foot shooter with defensive versatility. But he’s running out of time to show consistent contributions. That’ll make it tougher for Chicago to offer a satisfactory extension.

Two of the very things that could happen for the Bulls are Markkanen shaking off his extended slump and landing a high draft pick.

This could help with both.