Earlier today the long overdue Jimmy Butler trade finally happened. In the trade, Minnesota sent Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton to Philadelphia for Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, Dario Saric and a 2022 2nd round pick. Quite frankly, after rumors that Houston offered 4 first round picks, this deal is disappointing. In fact, it looked like Minnesota would win a trade with Houston. Nevertheless, the Wolves took the deal with Philly. Let’s look at the winners and losers.
Winner: Jimmy Butler
Butler is a big winner in this trade. It may have taken months after his request, but he finally got out of Minnesota. Even better, the Wolves sent him to a team with conference finals aspirations. Although the Sixers are a younger team, they don’t seem to have the problems the Wolves had. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid appear to be much more dedicated to than Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Butler’s fit with the team on the court is questionable, but the pieces are there for them to be great.
Winner: The Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers definitely won the trade. Obviously, chemistry is a big question but adding another all-NBA talent to the roster is a great move. Only having to give up a struggling Saric, an old Bayless, and Covington makes it even better. This should springboard them into the discussion for being one of the best in the East once again.
Also, Butler will give Embiid the much needed second scoring option to take pressure off of him. There is no doubt that Simmons is a great player, but he is not an elite scorer. Also, his terrible shooting allows defenses to clog the paint, putting more pressure on Embiid. Butler isn’t a great 3 point shooter but he is good enough to prevent defenders from slacking off of him. His ability to score from almost anywhere will force defenses to pay attention to him and Embiid at the same time. Before this trade nobody on Philadelphia had that kind of offensive talent. Overall, a great move for Philly.
Kinda Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
While being in the position where you’re forced to trade your best player is never good, the Timberwolves did OK. If the Rockets’ offer was real than they definitely should have taken it, but this deal still gives the Wolves some options. Financially this deal helped them a lot. After giving Towns and Wiggins max contracts off their rookie deals they couldn’t really afford Butler. This offseason he would have likely demanded a max contract. Unless they wanted to pay insane luxury taxes the Wolves would have had almost no money to put players around Towns, Wiggins, and Butler. Getting the Bayless’ expiring contract and two players on reasonable contracts was a win for the Wolves.
Looking at the on-court value of Saric and Covington isn’t bad either. They will both improve the Wolves extremely average 3 point percentage (14th of 30) and offer badly needed bench depth. Hopefully, adding Covington and Saric will lead to a decrease of minutes for Gorgui Dieng and Josh Okogie. Okogie has great potential but hasn’t helped the team as a rookie. Giving more of his minutes to Covington should improve the defense and 3-point shooting significantly.
One more positive from the overall bleak Jimmy Butler trade is the possibility of improvement from Towns and Wiggins. Wiggins and Butler never got along and Butler may have stunted Wiggins development. Also, Towns has played significantly better in games with Butler out of the lineup. If these two improve and Derrick Rose continues his impressive comeback season the Wolves might be okay.
Loser: The 76er’s Depth
The 76er’s already had suffered through poor bench play this season and now they traded two key rotation players. Covington and Saric combined for 63.3 minutes per game. Butler will fill in about 37 of those minutes, but who will fill in the rest? Amir Johnson? Additionally, news recently broke that Zhaire Smith will miss the vast majority of the season due to complications with allergies. Brett Brown will have to get creative with his lineups to find a way to keep enough talent on the floor at all times.
Besides depth, the Sixers also lost some of their best shooters. Last season Saric shot 39.3% from three and Covington is shooting 39% from three this season. Jimmy Butler is a good shooter but his best season from three was 37.8% on only 3 attempts a game. Compared to Saric’s and Covington’s 5 and 7 attempts, respectively, 3 is extremely low. The Jimmy Butler trade improved their top-heavy talent, but it cost them considerable depth. But, as long as they make additions from the buyout market like they did last year they should be fine.
Loser: Timberwolves’ Fans
After one playoff appearance that lasted only 5 games, the Wolves’ are back to mediocrity. While there were definitely positives that came from the Jimmy Butler trade the on-court product will be worse overall. I’m doubtful the Timberwolves will be able to make the playoffs due to how stacked the Western conference is. Basically, Timberwolves’ fans waited 16 years for 5 playoff games. But, I still believe the additions of Saric and Covington will help them return to the playoffs in the next few years.