Earlier today, Shams Charania reported that James Harden has added the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks to his list of preferred trade destinations. Jimmy Butler liked an Instagram post sharing the news.
Later in the day, Butler appeared on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols, who asked him about that double-tap on his phone. The 31-year-old called Harden a “friend” and said he just wants him to be happy. Butler also said he likes “the group that we have.” Harden is under contract for the next two seasons, and the Heat would certainly have to give up at least Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro in a trade.
Jimmy Butler on James Harden/Miami Heat rumors "I like the group that we have...I like James, he's a friend of mine and I just want him to be happy" pic.twitter.com/8NBNkK8gJO— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 10, 2020
Was Butler’s Instagram like an innocuous act, or did it signal something more? I would say it’s much ado about nothing. Butler and Herro grew close last season; the 20-year-old called Butler a big brother and credited him for his playoff success after scoring 37 points in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Ever since I got here he’s been like a big brother to me.”— NBA TV (@NBATV) September 24, 2020
Herro talks about his relationship with Butler after Game 4. pic.twitter.com/UF2605W3LN
Besides, I don’t see a Harden-to-Miami trade as a feasible scenario — despite the fact that Miami is now the betting favorite for Harden’s next team if he gets traded this season. The Heat have already traded their first-round draft picks in 2021 and 2023. Teams cannot trade first-round picks in consecutive seasons, so Miami is barred from trading their picks in 2022 or 2024.
The Heat would need to remove lottery protections from their 2023 pick (which currently resides with the Oklahoma City Thunder) to be able to trade their 2025 or 2027 first-round pick. And the Houston Rockets would prefer offers from teams that have earlier draft picks. After all, if I offered you $100 next year or $100 in five years, wouldn’t you take next year?