Winners and losers of the Jimmy Butler trade

By MATTHEW RITCHIE | November 15, 2018

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KEITH ALLISON/CC BY-SA 2.0 Ben Simmons will have to learn how to mesh well with Jimmy Butler.

 Well, there was finally a resolution to the Jimmy Butler saga, and I don’t think that it was the resolution that anyone expected. Or wanted, for that matter. I believe from a purely entertainment standpoint, we would have loved to continue to hear stories about Butler mentally breaking Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns or how the Timberwolves rejected another tantalizing trade offer. 

Alas, this past Saturday, The Athletic reported that Minnesota agreed to send Butler and former first-round pick Justin Patton to the Philadelphia 76ers. Philly sent forwards Dario Šarić and Robert Covington, guard Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick back over to Minnesota. It was a blockbuster trade that has sent one of the League’s most consistent two-way players to a top contender in the Eastern Conference. For a storyline that laid its roots early in the offseason, there is a lot to unpack. So let’s get into it. 

It’s no secret that Minnesota was looking to move Butler, so there were a number of suitors throughout the NBA. They believed that they deserved the greatest haul possible, as Butler is a game-changing force on both sides of the ball and arguably one of the top 10 players in the Association — which is why this trade seems a little peculiar. No sleight against Šarić, Covington, Bayless and some potential 10th grader, but this was by no means the best trade offer available. 

The Miami Heat had offered up two separate bids: One including guard Goran Dragić, forward Justise Winslow and a draft pick, and the other featuring guard Josh Richardson and a first-round draft pick in a non-specified year. 

The Houston Rockets also inquired with two bids: one with four — count ‘em, four — first-round draft picks, guard Brandon Knight and forward Marquese Chriss. The other offer included guard Eric Gordon, Brazilian rebounding legend Nenê and two first-rounders. The last offer that we heard of came from the New Orleans Pelicans and was centered around forward Nikola Mirotić and an unprotected first-rounder. 

From a purely competitive standpoint, I can understand why the Timberwolves did not want to move Butler within the conference. On paper, sending him to the Rockets or Pelicans would seem to be counterproductive: Potentially giving one of their conference rivals a cornerstone player would not be conducive to success. I get that. But did they see what the Rockets gave them? Four first-round picks and two solid veteran figures? 

Look, if anyone offered me four first-round picks, I would snatch those up in a heartbeat. Especially if the Timberwolves were “desperately” looking to move Butler. But no matter the haul, they ended up getting the resolution they wanted.  

In terms of player satisfaction, I believe that there are at least two players that were ecstatic to hear about the recent trade news. One of those is Jimmy Butler, whose hostage situation in Minnesota has finally come to a close.

His ability to forcibly remove himself from the Timberwolves organization must be applauded. Butler now finds himself a legitimate title contender in Philly — which also happens to be built around recent top-three picks — instead of struggling to carry a team that has landed itself in the bottom of the Western Conference. 

It will be interesting to see how Butler will mesh in the Sixers offense, whose main struggle as a unit is three-pointers. As a player that can get to the basket and create his own shot from anywhere on the floor, Butler can be an important catalyst for the team.

The issue, however, is that he is an anemic three-point shooter, posting a 36.3 shooting percentage on spot-up threes. The Sixers sent away two above-average marksmen from the outside, leaving them with Butler and a coward that refuses to shoot the ball from outside of the paint. 

The other person undoubtedly happy to see Butler hit the road is the aforementioned Karl-Anthony Towns. 

The now infamous offseason practice session — during which Butler came in with the third-string players and beat the brakes off the starters — seems to have had a profound effect on Towns and not for the better. 

In fact, it seems as though Butler may have broken Towns. The former rookie of the year is making shots at a far lower rate, with his two-pointer shooting percentage down from 58.5 percent to 48.5 percent. On top of that, Towns is turning the ball over at a career worst 3.0 turnovers per game. 

In games that Butler played in, Towns was only averaging 17.7 points. He has become the model for inconsistency, a shell of himself during his rookie campaign. 

It’s apparent and well known that Towns has the ability to be a game-changing star, but the presence of Butler had apparently marred his confidence. Hopefully, he’ll regain his vigor with the absence of the overbearing Butler. 

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