By: Dan Slaubaugh
After two months of refusing trade offers and pretending keeping Jimmy Butler around wasn’t a distraction to the team, Glen Taylor - yes, Glen, not Thibs - finally pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Jimmy Butler (and Justin Patton) to Philadelphia. In exchange, the Wolves received All-NBA defender Robert Covington, young stretch four Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2019 second-round pick.
Regardless of Butler’s future plans, this was a blockbuster trade and a could be a huge get for the 76ers. Now, let's categorize the winners and losers of the trade.
Winner: The Western Conference
The Eastern Conference is slowly catching up to the Western Conference in terms of star talent, but the West is still the superior conference. That said, any time a star player gets shipped out of the West is welcoming news for Western Conference executives. In this case, everyone but Daryl Morey.
Loser: The Houston Rockets
After a slow start to the season and title-contending expectations, the Rockets were looking to add a legitimate third star to support James Harden and Chris Paul. They reportedly threw four first-round picks Minnesota's way, but the Wolves rejected. Now that they've lost out on the Butler sweepstakes, it will be interesting to see if they throw those first-round picks another teams way to try to land another star (Bradley Beal?) or split the picks up to add a pair of 3-and-D options elsewhere.
Winner: The Philadelphia 76ers
After a season and a few playoff series' where the 76ers relied heavily on rookie Ben Simmons and the immensely talented but playoff-unseasoned Joel Embiid, Butler immediately provides a reliable and consistent third option for Brett Brown's crew. How Butler meshes with the Sixers' young stars is still to be determined, and his injury history is reason to be wary about handing him a maximum contract, but the Sixers gamble to establish themselves as an Eastern Conference contender for both now and later is calculated. When healthy, Butler is a legitimate NBA star and two-way beast that can lock down your best perimeter player while playing on or off the ball offensively.
Loser: Boston, Toronto, Milwaukee, Indiana
Now the East actually has to deal with Butler in the playoffs. Best wishes to all the teams hopeful of making it to the Eastern Conference Finals, or further. Good luck playing against playoff Butler.
Winner: The Minnesota Timberwolves
Looking at this from the Wolves’ point of view, they didn’t want to part ways with Butler, and for obvious reasons. But once he demanded a trade, the team took a slow (albeit far too slow) approach to see what kind of package it could acquire for the four-time All-Star forward.
It was more than past due, but the Wolves snagged two guys under team control who are good fits for a guy who didn't want to be here and whos market was dying. Yeah, it sucks trading a star because you rarely get equal value but this is better than the Rockets deal.
Jimmy Butler is now Philadelphia's problem. That's great news in and of itself.
Loser(s): The fans who think the return is awful
Some people think the Wolves got fleeced. Don't listen to them. They aren’t worth your time.
Robert Covington - aka Lord Covington - is one of the best 3-and-D wings in the NBA and an all-world defender. With great size at 6’9” and a 7’2” wingspan, he’ll immediately improve the Wolves perimeter defense and take the pressure off Towns by not letting seemingly every guard get to the rim. Offensively, he'll provide the Wolves with much-needed perimeter shooting. Covington is shooting 39 percent from three-point range on 5.9 attempts per game.
Saric - aka Super Dario - is off to a slow start this season, but he broke out last year shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from three-point range. The Croation forward is like a tough-minded Nemanja Bjelica with a decisive trigger. Still only 24, he’s coming off his best game this season pouring in 18 points and nine rebounds. Saric is especially a great fit for this team due to his age being in the same timeline as Towns and Wiggins.
Yes, landing rising star Josh Richardson would have been unbelievably awesome. But at least they landed two controllable, reasonably priced players. Covington is signed the through the 2021-22 season at 11.7 million per year, while Saric is signed through 2020-21 at 2.7 million per year. Two impact players for combined 14 million per year? I’ll take it.
Although Covington and Saric aren’t in the same stratosphere as Butler on the offensive end of the court, the Wolves are getting two floor spacers who started for a team that made the Eastern Conference semifinals just a season ago.
This was a good haul.
Winner: Jimmy Butler
In the end, General Soreness got his wish. He can now lace ‘em up for a contender who can sign him to a maximum deal after the season.
His image definitely took a hit, but I'm not sure he cares.
Loser: Tom Thibodeau
Break-ups are hard. Couple that with the possibility of Thibodeau getting relieved of his duties soon, and it could end up being a rough few months for the Wolves current president of basketball operations and head coach. After all, coaching basketball has been his life since he served as an assistant coach at Salem State at age 22.
Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns
As the Minnesota Timberwolves organization internally crumbled to the ground around him, Karl-Anthony Towns gave the long-suffering fans something to cheer about after Butler's trade request. Fresh off Butler's request, the 22-year-old All-Star inked his rookie extension deal. A $190 million pledge to handle the hopes of Wolves lovers for the next five years.
He handled the Butler saga like a true professional from beginning to end, patiently waiting for Butler to be shipped, knowing it would eventually be his team.
That time has come, and now chemistry issues aside, we can watch the big man go to work.
It's time to put our hope and trust in Karl-Anthony Towns and start having fun again.
By: Seth Toupal
By: Jonah Sprinkel
On Monday night the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers. The game itself was the most enjoyable game of basketball the Timberwolves have played this year. Target Center was nearly full of fans. It was possible to hear fans through the television! Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and LeBron James each demonstrated their basketball prowess. When the fat lady finally sang, the Timberwolves came out on top, 124-120. Jimmy Butler connected on a remarkable six of seven threes, including a ridiculously contested three over Rajon Rondo to seal the game. Karl-Anthony Towns busted his slump with 25 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and four blocks. The Timberwolves won a close basketball game against a team they could possibly be in playoff contention with. By every low standard the Timberwolves fans have, it should have been a feel-good night in Minnesota.
And yet, there is a lack of meaning to everything that goes on involving this organization.
Having your star small forward demand a trade, in a contract year, right before the season begins, is the NBA equivalent of having your friend jump off the seesaw when you’re at the top. The bottom drops out. Everything hurts. It takes a second to realize just what has happened. The pain from the seesaw accident is quick to disappear. Just as a preseason trade demand should be. Tom Thibodeau does not believe any of this should be short lived.
It has been 40 days since the news of Jimmy Butler’s trade request broke. Since then, the Timberwolves front office, and by extension, ownership, has absolutely dropped the ball on the entire situation. Butler made a joke out of the organization in one practice. Trades with other organizations have seemingly been in place more than once and yet, bafflingly, Butler remains on the roster. Championship dreams aside, these are not the normal goings on for a halfway competent franchise.
If Jimmy Butler is an injury to the metaphorical body of the Timberwolves organization, the doctors in charge (Thibodeau, Scott Layden and Glen Taylor) should, in theory, be quick to perform surgery. Continuing to run the team through Butler only serves to prolong the inevitable; turning the offense over to Karl-Anthony Towns. Included in that inevitable should be the development of the young players. Thibodeau is a firm supporter of the opposite. The longer the doctors allow an injury to fester, the worse it will affect the future of the body.
Thibodeau has never faced the future during his time in Minnesota. Every former member of the Chicago Bulls who went on to become a Timberwolf is a prime example of that. The significant moves Thibodeau has made have been successful. Derrick Rose is a capable bench player. Taj Gibson has been invaluable to the team. Jeff Teague has done well in his role. Anthony Tolliver is a savvy addition. All these moves are centered around the idea that the Timberwolves need to be successful now. If Butler is your centerpiece, that’s a fantastic approach. That is no longer the case. The Timberwolves must begin operating for the future.
It’s very apparent that this squad will not be in title contention this year or even next. Between the existence of the Golden State Warriors and the current state of the Timberwolves it would take a Minneapolis Miracle-type season for that to happen. That’s not to say the organization should throw their hands in the air forfeit the next couple seasons. They should be doing the opposite by doubling down and working harder than every other franchise to be ready to pounce when the title window opens. Towns needs to be instilled with confidence as a player and a leader. Someone needs to light a fire under Andrew Wiggins. The young players need to get quality playing time. A rebuild is not what is necessary nor required. A time of stability and growth is what this team needs.
So long as Butler remains a Timberwolf none of this can happen. The Timberwolves will be forced to suffer through the bipolar tendencies of a team that is aware it won’t be together much longer. Those tendencies manifest themselves in the shape of the dismemberment by the Milwaukee Bucks last Friday and the win over the Lakers on Monday. The drama of the Butler situation was likely a large cause for the Bucks loss. Butler was the reason the Timberwolves won the Lakers game. Thibodeau may see those wins as a bonus for keeping Butler around longer. But is the stability of the franchise and the growth of talent worth a couple extra wins in a meaningless year?
By: Dan Slaubaugh
Tonight, the Minnesota Timberwolves will square off against LeBron James, Lavar I mean Lonzo Ball, and the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a game that projects to be high scoring as both teams are top half in offensive rating and in the bottom 10 of the league for defensive rating.
After beginning the season 0-3, the Lakers have won two of their past three with wins over the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets. Both of those wins came without 21-year-old forward Brandon Ingram, who was suspended four games after throwing a haymaker at Chris Paul in their second game of the season. Ingram is set to return tonight against Minnesota.
The Wolves come into tonight’s game with a disappointing 2-4 record and seem to be distracted by the Jimmy Butler saga. They will try to bounce back after getting steamrolled at home by the Milwaukee Bucks Friday.
What: Wolves - Lakers
When: 7:10 PM CT
Where: Target Center. Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
King James and the kids: Led by the one and only LeBron James, the Lakers have a plethora of young talent around their newly-acquired Hollywood superstar. Having shown a lot of promise so far, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma should only continue to get better. Surrounding LeBron and the kids are a cast of colorful characters in Rajon Rando, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley. This team is certainly entertaining and probably the first Lakers squad I haven’t actively rooted against in my life.
Transition scoring: LeBron teams tend to get in the open floor and attack in transition. This year is no exception. The Lakers rank first in the NBA in transition averaging 37.7 points in transition per game and percentage of total points from transition buckets at 21.9 percent. With multiple ball-handlers capable of pushing the pace, and explosive athletes all over the floor, getting out in transition will be their bread and butter all season.
The second-best transition offense in the league? The Minnesota Timberwolves, who have been pushing the ball more this year as a result of multiple capable ball-handlers and distributors that can create easy looks for the team.
"If you get stops, you can push. I think having multiple point guards allows you to play that way. We do want to play a lot faster,” Thibodeau said after a win over the Pacers one week ago today. “Now, I don't know what it really means because our pace was fast in the preseason and we got blown out. If the pace is fast and we win, I'm good. I think we have the capability of doing that.”
Thibodeau credited Karl-Anthony Towns for the success the Wolves have had in transition.
“I think KAT is getting down the floor a lot better and mixing it up being the first big down. Those are the opportunities, because of what he sees in terms of double-teams in the half court, sprinting the floor to the front of the rim, the defense can’t get set. It sets up a lot of things because often times the guards are back protecting, and that leads our guards to get KAT the ball in deep post ups. ... For us, it's good. The faster the better.”
It’s going to be a track meet at Target Center tonight.
Attendance: With King James in the West now, LeBron fans in Minnesota get to see him twice a year instead of once. Tonight will be their first chance and it will probably result in it being a pro-Lakers crowd, as the Wolves rank dead last in attendance this season with an average of 15,227 fans through the team’s first three home games. I’ll be listening to hear the noise levels between each fanbase after each bucket.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Los Angeles: PG Lonzo Ball, SG Josh Hart, SF Brandon Ingram, PF LeBron James, C JaVale McGee
Lakers win the transition battle in a high-scoring affair.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game.
By: Seth Toupal
The Timberwolves welcome one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference to the Target Center in the Milwaukee Bucks. Led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and a very talented supporting cast, the Bucks are thriving under new head coach Mike Budenholzer. The Wolves are very tough at home in the Jimmy Butler era, so will the Bucks suffer their first loss of the year or will the Wolves be handed their first home loss this season? Something has to give.
What: Bucks @ Wolves
When: 7:00 PM CT
Where: Target Center
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 AM WCCO
What to watch for:
Wide Open Spaces: The Bucks made a huge effort to build around their franchise cornerstone and put teams in difficult spots when trying to play defense. The addition of Brook Lopez and his ability to knock down 3's has freed up Giannis to feast down low. Giannis also has the freedom and ability to kick out to any of his waiting shooters if teams crash on him in the paint. Might as well call them Houston East. The Wolves will have to force the Bucks off the 3 point line or we could see a similar result to any of those losses against the Rockets last year.
It's Time for Angry KAT: Karl-Anthony Towns has had a rough start to the season to say the least. After appearing to check himself out of the game against Toronto, how will Towns respond against another tough and physical matchup against the Bucks? A rebound performance would do wonders for Towns' confidence which has definitely taken a hit. Some ferocious dunks or blocks could help get him going.
Bombs from the Bench: The Wolves bench will need to be able to match the Bucks in production. This is a perfect game for Anthony Tolliver to come in and launch from deep whenever he has a chance. They will also need good Derrick Rose, and a little Okogie sprinkled in to try to lock somebody down. In a matchup of star power it will likely come down to whoever gets the most out of their bench.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins (Josh Okogie will start at SG if Wiggins is out), SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Milwaukee: PG Malcolm Brogdon, SG Eric Bledsoe, SF Khris Middleton, PF Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Brook Lopez
Minnesota: OUT - Justin Patton (foot) QUESTIONABLE - Andrew Wiggins (quad)
Milwaukee: QUESTIONABLE - Matthew Dellavadova (illness)
The tough stretch to start the year continues for the Wolves. We will have to wait and see if Andrew Wiggins is able to suit up or if he will miss his second straight game. Giannis will be difficult to stop, but if the Wolves can limit some of the key role players on the roster they will have a chance to knock off the Bucks. The Wolves will need Karl-Anthony Towns to have a much better game than he did against Toronto, otherwise this game could get out of hand quickly. My guess is the Wolves keep it close if Wiggins plays, if not who knows.
Bucks 116, Wolves 108 :(
Seth is host of The Scoop on KLGR Radio out of Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Listen to episodes of The Scoop here.