As the regular season opened, the volume of trades talks around guard Jimmy Butler quieted significantly since Butler’s request over a month ago that the Wolves move him.
But that changed Thursday with a report that the Houston Rockets are making a serious pitch for Butler, who is set to become a free agent after the season.
The Rockets made an offer to the Wolves that included four first-round picks, according to an ESPN report.
The four first-round picks are the maximum allowed in any trade under NBA rules and would have to be applied in every other year over seven years, beginning with the 2019 draft. The protections on those picks likely would be limited, the report said.
The offer creates an interesting situation for Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves coach and president of basketball operations. Such a deal would have an eye more toward the future of the franchise while Thibodeau has a desire to win now. Would he be reluctant to pull the move on such a deal that might harm the Wolves’ chances of making the playoffs this season, when his job could potentially be on the line?
But the deal also might indicate that Thibodeau’s initial unwillingness to trade Butler and hold out for a better deal might be working in the Wolves’ favor.
Initially, the Miami Heat did not want to include young guard Josh Richardson in a trade for Butler. Then the Heat reportedly offered Richardson before talks between the Wolves and Heat broke down more than two weeks ago. Now the Rockets are offering the maximum amount of first-round picks allowable under NBA rules.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, recently said the organization would honor Butler’s trade request as long as he returned to the team and played hard in the meantime. Butler has done that.
“I think [Butler has] made it very clear that he would not re-sign with us at the end of the year and therefore it is in our interest to get a trade so that we can get a player or two to replace him that helps our team,” Taylor told the Star Tribune last week.
Josh Okogie watch
Rookie Josh Okogie got the start in place of the injured Andrew Wiggins on Wednesday and had an interesting night. Okogie was 0-for-8 in the first half, but four of those misses came on one sequence around the basket when he couldn’t convert his own misses.
They also helped to inflate his rebounding totals. But Okogie found more success in the second half, hitting four of six shots, including a high-flying putback dunk that caused a gasp through Scotiabank Arena. Okogie finished with his first career double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds.
To Thibodeau, Okogie’s night was a net positive for the Wolves.
“He’s going to make some mistakes out there, but we see him shoot every day. So we know this guy can shoot,” Thibodeau said. “After he got an easy one to go, then he got a good rhythm and it’ll slow for him as he goes. The rebounding, his reaction to the ball, his hustle plays, those are things we desperately need.”
• The Wolves were not only off in transition Wednesday, scoring only 10 points on the fast break, but they also didn’t do something else with as much frequency as they have been — get to the free-throw line. They had only 16 attempts, a season low.