It happened! Jimmy Butler finally got traded and it kind of threw me off. It made sense that Butler would eventually get traded, but I did not at all expect the timing of the announcement. When I got a notification saying that Butler (and Justin Patton) had been dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a future second-rounder, I audibly gasped and let out a "Holy shit!" The trade made so much sense for Philly and it was a big splash for Elton Brand's first mega-transaction as their new GM. Based on reports of what Minnesota was offered for Butler, this particular deal doesn't make much sense for their immediate and future success and it would only make sense for head coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau to eventually get canned. This was a fairly big trade, and it has the potential to make a few waves throughout the league.
This was a no-brainer for Philly. After missing out on LeBron's free agency sweepstakes and Kawhi via trade over the summer, the Sixers were kind of stuck in a transactional limbo while the Celtics, Raptors, and Bucks all improved in the East. Going out and getting a certified star like Jimmy Butler is going to be a major help. It also looks like Butler is going to sign long-term, which should help ease having to move on from solid rotational pieces (Covington and Saric). Slotting Jimmy into their starting lineup gives them an immediate boost on both ends, as he's once again stuffing the all-around stat sheet. Through ten games, Butler is averaging 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.0 block on 47.1/37.8/78.7 shooting. He's been an All Star the last four years and should be able to snag a fifth straight selection in a diluted East.
The biggest looming question in Philly isn't Butler's ability to perform, but rather his ability to peacefully co-exist with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. In Minnesota, Butler bullied Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to the point where they looked like they hated basketball. Both were the Wolves' young, budding stars before Butler's arrival, and the situation is the exact same in Philly. Embiid and Simmons have been given the keys to the franchise's future and have the expectation of greatness fueling them. They're both much more proven than KAT and Wiggins, so Butler might not feel as inclined to shit on them with the third-stringers in practice. I'm just hoping Fultz doesn't catch too many under-the-breath comments from Jimmy after he misses a few shots because then he really may never become a reliable shooter due to his confidence dwindling even further down than it already has.
Presumably, the Sixers' stars will get along, and if they do, Philly will be toting the NBA's newest Big Three.
The Sixers did lose a little height in the starting lineup with the loss of Dario Saric, but his performance to this point should be replaceable (Carmelo? Maybe?). He's currently having a down year, putting up a mere 11.1 points a night on 36.4% shooting. With Wilson Chandler re-entering the rotation he should be able to help as a stretch-four. While the Sixers have definitely improved, it still may not be enough to get to the Finals, even in the East. They finally got a road win, and are currently tied for third in the East (8-6, 7-0 at home), but the Raptors and Bucks are both looking incredible. Toronto has the best record in the league (12-1, 7-0 at home) and Milwaukee (10-3, 6-0 at home) just blew out the Warriors in Oakland. Embiid is the best center in the league and is having an absolute monster season (27.7/13.1/3.6), Simmons is looking better in each game, and Butler is one of the best two-way players in the league, which gives them a legit shot at the title. Philly just needs to be able to mesh well and boost the lesser-cast around them. They definitely can finish top-three in the East and could possibly move up to the two seed if Milwaukee ever catches a cold streak.
Thibs really doesn't give a shit. The Wolves have gotten off to a horrible start as they currently sit at 14th in the West (4-9), so Thibs must feel his hot seat burning hotter than ever now. Butler had to eventually be moved, but they took a head-scratching deal. It was reported that the Pelicans offered Niko Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick, while the Rockets offered four first-rounders and another package of Eric Gordon, Nene, and two first-round picks in return for Butler. Even the Heat offered deals headlined by 2018 All Star Goran Dragic and up-and-coming stud Josh Richardson. While the return Minnesota got from the Sixers certainly wasn't bad, it may not have a drastic impact on their short or long-term success.
Trading Butler will definitely remove a sense of awkwardness that must have been surrounding the locker room. There's no way that was a fun environment to be in with Jimmy constantly death glaring KAT and Wiggins while telepathically threatening them. Dealing Jimmy gives the team a chance to get a semi-fresh start and head in a new direction. Hopefully KAT can break out of his shell and put up the big numbers he's shown he's capable of contributing. On the other hand, Andrew Wiggins still sucks and will never live up to the $150 million extension that just kicked in. He's averaging 17 points a night on 41.6% shooting and playing atrocious defense, basically cancelling himself out every game. Every once in a while he'll go off and show flashes of potential greatness, but it doesn't seem like Wiggins cares enough to truly be a star.
The Wolves weren't good this year with Jimmy Butler, and they're not going to be good without him. Minnesota made their first postseason appearance in 13 years last season, and it looks like the fans are going to have to wait a little for another. They lost an All Star for a couple of solid rotation players who will help with depth, but probably not playoff seeding.
As a Bulls fan, this trade makes me feel incredible. Trading Jimmy sent us into a full-blown rebuild, but now it feels good to have 100% won the trade. The Bulls were able to get Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach LaVine for 69 (lol) games of Jimmy Butler. That's an absolute robbery, and I have to give credit to GarPax for pulling it off.
Maybe this will crack open the phonebooks of GMs across the league, especially for struggling teams. Minnesota finally realized they weren't going to do anything with Jimmy and got a deal while they could. Could Washington start looking to deal Brad Beal or John Wall? Perhaps the Cavs look into shipping out Kevin Love? Nothing seems improbable in today's NBA.