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.