On Monday, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Minnesota Timberwolves hope to finalize the Jimmy Butler trade as they present it to the NBA for approval. The trade involves Butler leaving Minnesota for Philly and Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayliss (who may be waived) and Dario Saric going to Minnesota, plus a 2022 second round pick. The trade, if completed, ends the long running nightmare Butler put the Wolves and the rest of the NBA through, as he exercised the only leverage available to him.
His latest version of trade me like yesterday was cherry picking which teams he was going to play against and sitting out the rest with soreness. Any player coached by Thibs is going to be sore; Thibs works everyone into the ground but Butler was using his trade demand to better himself. After last night’s loss to the Sacramento Kings that gave the Wolves an 0-8 road record, the worst in the NBA, Thibs waved the white flag and gave in to owner Glen Taylor.
This is the epitaph: the Jimmy Butler to Minnesota trade executed on draft night 2017 was an abject failure. Time to turn the page.
Jimmy Butler is an All-Star that will add a boost to the 76ers scoring and defense. Butler has made a career out of toughness, grit and putting the ball in the hole. He has the mid-range shot as his bread and butter and can drain a three under pressure and he’s streaky with it. His talent is how hard he plays, as if his career is going to be over tomorrow. There is nothing glamourous or Hollywood about his game. He’s not gentle or accommodating. He doesn’t suffer fools and isn’t in it to make friends.
Jimmy Butler was the last pick in the 2011 draft and he plays as if he is still angry about Derrick Williams (2nd pick, not in NBA), Enes Kanter (3rd pick), Tristan Thompson (4th pick), Jan Vesely (6th pick, not in NBA), Bismack Biyombo (7th pick), Brandon Knight (8th pick), Jimmer Fredette (10th pick, not in NBA), Alec Burks (12th pick), Iman Shumpert (17th pick), Chris Singleton (18th pick, not in NBA) drafted ahead of him.
Philly is going to get a maniacal hard worker. That’s how you have a rookie scoring production of 2.6 ppg and by your fourth season you are dropping 20.0 points.
The Sixers need Butler, lets start there. Philadelphia is 22nd in shooting percentage and 21st in 3-point percentage. Butler will help the offense instantly. He is a ball dominant wing who likes pressure situations, primarily last shot situations. This season, even with all the turmoil, he is shooting 47% and 37% from three, the second best of his career. He rebounds and dishes 5 and 4 times per game, averaging 21.3 points. His offensive rating is a dominant 122 but his defense this season and last season has been pretty apathetic. He was playing with young players that didn’t really care about defending and it seeped into his game too.
But red flags are red flags. He’s taken 392 jumpers and made 39%. In the last 3 minutes of a quarter he has taken 17 shots and made 35%. He was unhappy without a new deal (Philly will extend him this summer). Still, with a frown, in 8 of 10 games he scored 20+ and in two games, the Cavs and Lakers, he dropped 30+. (He missed three games for “soreness”).
Regardless, he is better than who he is replacing. Robert Covington is a nice player who is tough like Butler and has made a nice career for himself after not being drafted but he’s not an All-Star and he doesn’t have Butler’s intangibles.
But there is a dark side. Jimmy Butler is Jimmy Butler a little bit too much. He calls it naked “honesty” but he is very willing to throw teammates and coaches under the bus. He is a straight shooter and doesn’t care that much for anyone’s feelings. He leads in the opposite way of a Tim Duncan. He will tear someone down in a public minute but is that really leadership? Secondarily, do the 76ers need Butler to lead? Are they paying him to just be a cold blooded assassin? That he can do. Be cold-blooded. Even in the locker room.
Everywhere Butler has gone there has been some Butler into his feelings moment where he just has to tell it like it is. It causes people to not like him but respect him. He has tunnel vision. He scrapes and digs and claws for wins and expects everyone to do the same, and of course, give him the ball.
It’s not a Philly experiment. Jimmy Butler gives the 76ers offense a lot of options and it really frees up Ben Simmons by giving him one more weapon. But one can logically assume the Markelle Fultz reclamation project is going nowhere. The third scorer Fultz was supposed to be has totally fizzled and so Elton Brand did what former players turned GM do.
Get talent wherever and whenever. Work out the kinks later.