The Minnesota Timberwolves were caught in the middle of Jimmy Butler’s unending “soap opera,” as one veteran put it in the midst of a 0-5 road trip.
After finally realizing that the drama wasn’t ending any time soon, Minnesota relented and agreed to trade the All-Star wing to Philadelphia, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The deal will send Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a 2020 second-round pick to Minnesota. Philadelphia, which plans on signing Butler to a long-term deal this summer, also gets injury-plagued former first-round pick Justin Patton.
Butler, 29, is one of the few two-way stars in the league, a scorer who has averaged at least 20 points in each of the last five seasons and can also put his chest into and defend the other top wings in the NBA. The 6-foot-6 wing has been NBA All-Defensive second team four times and All-NBA third team the last two seasons.
He leaves Minnesota in rough shape — after barely reaching the playoffs last season the Timberwolves are currently owners of a 4-9 record after being mired in the muck of Butler’s offseason trade request. In his wake, Karl-Anthony Towns will become the clear alpha with hopes that Andrew Wiggins can continue to develop — something that seemed to get stuck in pause alongside Butler, who has played heavy minutes while appearing in more than 70 games only twice in his previous seven seasons.
The deal brings Minnesota two quality starters in Saric, a 6-10 power forward, and Covington, a 6-9 small forward. Saric, in particular, is an intriguing piece for their lineup. The third-year pro from Croatia has career averages of 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds a game while shooting 35% from three-point range. Covington, a sixth-year pro, has career averages of 12.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 36% shooting from long range.
But the bigger impact is on the 76ers, who have gone all-in to compete in the Eastern Conference by trading for someone who has now been dealt two times in three years. Butler will have to disprove the not-so-subtle whispers about his effect on locker room chemistry on a team that’s still dealing with its own issues — differing personalities in Embiid and Simmons along with Markelle Fultz’s shooting struggles.
While it’s early in the season, it’s clear that the LeBron-less East is loaded at the top with Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee looking like viable conference champions.
Before Saturday, some rival executives had wondered if Philadelphia had fallen out of that mix. “It feels like something is missing,” one said.
The 76ers are betting they found it in Butler.
Siakam? You hardly know him.
Part of the reason Philadelphia probably felt compelled to deal for Butler is the strong starts by teams at the top of the East, and no one has looked better than Toronto.
Part of the reason for their early-season success is third-year forward Pascal Siakam, an early favorite to become the league’s most improved player.
A testament to the Raptors’ scouting and development, which has been as good as anyone’s the last few years, Siakam saw his playing time disappear after being a first-round pick, spending time in the G League.
Now, he’s a starter, a key piece who can grab rebounds, lead a fast break and score around the rim.
“It’s humbling,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “For me, I got here, started the first 30 games and didn’t play for the rest of the year. I went to the G League. I wasn’t really on the team. Going through that, it can be hard for sure. But I think when you understand the purpose, knowing what you’re in for and your potential, everything else is easy.”
It wasn’t a huge surprise to see Tyson Chandler close out in his first game with the Lakers, and watching him tap key offensive rebounds to teammates was even less shocking. … One interesting player to watch in the aftermath of the Butler trade: Andrew Wiggins. The former No. 1 overall pick was asked what he has to do to take his game to the next level in the modern NBA. “I don’t know,” he solemnly told The Times. “I’ve got to figure it out.” … Speaking of former No. 1 overall picks, Anthony Bennett, the top pick in 2013, is playing for the Clippers’ G League team in Ontario. In two games with them, he’s averaging 15.5 points.