After a long, public bout between a disgruntled Jimmy Butler and virtually everyone else on the Timberwolves — from young stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, to coach and president Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden — Minnesota has finally agreed to trade the All-Star to the Philadelphia 76ers.
In exchange, the Wolves will receive 3-and-D wing Robert Covington, versatile stretch four Dario Saric, and backup Jerryd Bayless. They will also surrender injured big man Justin Patton and receive a 2022 second-round pick as part of the trade.
At first glance, the trade seems like an underwhelming return for Minnesota: an All-Star for two starters, no first-round picks, and they gave up an injured young player who may potentially become serviceable down the road.
But there are clear winners and losers from this deal beyond the teams involved. Let’s explore all of them.
The 76ers returned virtually the same team from last season, and it was beginning to show that they weren’t much better. They needed to shake things up.
Philly had options. Butler was one of the better ones.
They could have made a call for Kemba Walker, but Butler addresses an immediate need: perimeter playmaking and perimeter scoring. Butler’s a winner and a hard worker. Those things are public knowledge. Now he takes all his talents and his work ethic to a Sixers team and fan base that should embrace him.
He’ll be a player who can take some of the pressure off of Ben Simmons, especially in the half-court set. Both will need to adjust to playing more without the ball. The 76ers just got their third star.
Winner: Timberwolves fans
Wolves fans win solely because they now get to stop being so conflicted about their own team. Canis Hoopus’ John Meyer is over the moon:
I am finally filled with peace. I am Ron Swanson canoeing on a gorgeous day without a care in the world. The nightmarish circus that has corrupted the first 13 games, leading to an eye-rolling 4-9 start, is finally over. The distraction has been removed. Butler, while an incredible basketball player, is Philadelphia’s problem now.
Butler was turbulence in the form of their best player, but Minnesota also skidded and lost their last five games.
Wolves fans endured an unnecessary headache to start the season. This trade was a Motrin.
Loser: The rest of the East
Now, another superstar is headed to the East. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid already looked unstoppable, and Butler gives Philly a legitimate Big 3.
Mega Loser: Markelle Fultz
Philly just went ahead and got another primary ball-handler, which means if Fultz is still starting, he’ll have the ball in his hands approximately two percent of the time. And he still can’t shoot perimeter jump shots.
Has management given up on him with this trade?
Loser: Tom Thibodeau, the basketball executive
Thibs ultimately traded Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and a second-round pick for Robert Covington and Dario Saric. Covington and Saric are two solid players who can start for a long time, but Markkanen and LaVine have star power.
Being a coach and a general manager or president of basketball operations at the same time is very hard, and this is another reminder.
Winner: Tom Thibodeau, the coach
The Wolves lose Butler but get Covington — a two-way guy on a great contract who doesn’t need the ball to be effective — and Saric, a young, versatile stretch four who should complement Karl-Anthony Towns well.
The deal automatically makes Wiggins and Towns the new leaders of this team, putting more responsibility on their shoulders to dig out of this five-game skid. It also gives Minnesota a little more versatility.
The Wolves had too many cooks in the kitchen. Now the skies are clear for Wiggins and Towns to take flight. Hopefully, they’re ready to soar.
Winner: NBA Fans
Let’s all just take a moment and realize that NBA fans won this Philly/Minny trade. I have seen some priceless twitter content and we’re only an hour into it
— Spencer Dinwiddie (@SDinwiddie_25) November 10, 2018
Winner: Jimmy Butler
Butler finally got what he wanted and was traded from the Timberwolves. Philadelphia wasn’t one of his preferred destinations (New York, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, or Miami), and it wasn’t his hometown Houston; but he joins a playoff contender that he can help turn into a championship contender.
Butler has been freed from a situation he didn’t want to be part of. And so long as he, Simmons and Embiid mesh well — a big if — he’ll be a part of their future going forward. Butler won his trade, for now. Time will tell how long his W lasts.
Loser: The Rockets
Sorry, Daryl Morey. Better luck next time.
Loser: The Heat
Miami literally cannot sign a max free agent any time soon because of its ridiculously clogged payroll, so trading for and extending Butler would have given Pat Riley the star that city deserves.
But that’s out the window now. Josh Richardson continuing to develop is the Heat’s best hope.
Winner: Robert Covington
Covington’s game as a 3-and-D starter is so solid, he’s valid everywhere he goes. He’s good on any block. Good luck in Minnesota, RoCo.
Loser: The Wizards?
The Wizards, according to The Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds, were another team in on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes. A deal with Washington likely would have included Otto Porter Jr. Interesting. Butler could have helped Washington tremendously, and Porter would have been a solid return.
Big Winners: Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns
That the Wolves’ two franchise cornerstones had to deal with Butler’s drama for this long is ridiculous. It was a dark cloud hanging over the franchise’s head.
Hopefully, we see some inspired basketball from these two talented players over the remainder of this season. Butler’s departure will put the ball in their hands when it’s money time. It’s time for these two to step up.
Time will tell: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons
Butler didn’t mesh well with Towns and Wiggins, and now he’s headed to work with another set of young stars in Simmons and Embiid. This pair, though, has accomplished a good deal already. Butler projects to take them even further.
The 76ers’ success will be dictated by the relationship 29-year-old Butler and these young, budding stars. If they can get along off the court, the product on the court should be even better.
If not… we could see a Minnesota repeat in Philadelphia.