Report: Eric Gordon “mandatory” for Minnesota in any Butler trade with Houston

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Jimmy Butler trade talks, fairly dormant for the first couple weeks of the NBA season, have started to heat up again.

Specifically Houston — off to a 1-4 start and with terrible defense — is trying to get back into the conversation, reportedly offering four first-round picks along with Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss. Minnesota is reportedly lukewarm on that offer.

Part of the reason for that — the Timberwolves want Eric Gordon as part of any deal with the Rockets, reports Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Houston has offered four future first-round picks to Minnesota, but that package doesn’t include guard Eric Gordon, who’d be mandatory for Minnesota in any proposed deal, league sources said. Thibodeau wants a maximum return on players able to help Minnesota get back to the playoffs.

Taylor has tasked general manager Scott Layden with the focus of finding a trade, as Thibodeau concentrates on coaching the team. Miami and Philadelphia remain teams interested in potential deals for Butler, and Taylor has hoped that those teams would become more aggressive in their offers to pry Butler, league sources said.

As noted, the four-pick trade with a couple of filler contracts was never going to fly for Minnesota, in part because it does not help them win now and because they had to take on a couple seasons of Knight’s contract and the price for that would have been a couple of firsts anyway.

However, would a trade of Gordon, Chriss (once he’s available to be traded Nov. 1), Nene and a couple of picks do it? It does help Minnesota with a good player now — Gordon was the 2017 Sixth Man of the Year — and helps stockpile picks for the future. But is that the best offer on the table?

The leak of the Houston interest always seemed like something aimed at motivating other suitors. However, it’s difficult to imagine Miami upping their offer — Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters (for salary filler), and a 2019 first round pick with protections — in any significant way. Pat Riley made his offer, the deal got close, Riley’s not giving into that and going much bigger. Philadelphia only becomes interesting if they are willing to put Markelle Fultz in a trade (and would Thibodeau want that?).

There has been some buzz around the league that a Butler trade will get done relatively soon, like within the next week. If Minnesota owner Glen Taylor is pushing Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden to get a deal done, it will. However, we have heard this talk before and nothing has happened, so take every report with a grain of salt. Including this one.