I didn’t want to write anything out of emotion. Draft night was crazy. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe it happened. I joked that I wouldn’t believe anyone said about Jimmy Butler trades unless it came from Doogie Wolfson on twitter. But it happened. The Wolves landed Jimmy Butler and the draft rights to Justin Patton for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the rights to Lauri Markkanen.
The Wolves essentially created a future super team by adding a top-15 NBA player and one of the best two-way players in the league in Jimmy Butler. Getting the 16th pick in the deal was laughable as well. The Wolves moved back 9 spots in the draft with Jimmy Butler for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. It is mind blowing.
All of that said, it still hurts 24 hours later to see Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn leave. LaVine was a class act and was nothing but a hard worker while here. Dunn had a series of tweets on how he was begin to love Minnesota. It is a reminder that, as romantic of a game that basketball is, it is a business. Just start watching the jersey sponsorships over the next few years roll in. We will be constantly reminded that basketball is a business.
This trade happened for a few reasons. The Wolves need to win now and it makes complete sense that they have wanted Butler for a while. But I think deep down, the Wolves wanted Jonathon Isaac. Once it was certain that Isaac was going to be taken 6th, I think the Wolves felt more comfortable making the trade and there was a huge drop off from pick 6 to pick 7. There is also some concern about LaVine coming off an ACL tear. A red flag should go up when a player that relies on their athleticism tears an ACL. It’s not that it’s over, LaVine is still young. But it is certainly risky. Lastly, Kris Dunn still has the word ‘potential’ attached to him. Being that he was drafted as a senior and was advertised as ‘ready to play’, this second season means so much more for him and if he still does have potential. I’m still very high on LaVine and Dunn because both have floor skill sets that will be valuable no matter what happens. LaVine can shoot and Dunn can defend. But both were high-risk assets coming into this next year that the Wolves may have sold at the right time.
What has been overlooked is the cap situation the Wolves pulled themselves out of. The new CBA rule allows for teams to offer max contracts to two players on their rookie scale contract. Both Wiggins and LaVine were up for these extensions and both deserve the max. The Wolves obviously need to save one of these max extensions for KAT. On paper, it would be easy to tell LaVine that he isn’t getting the max because of his injury and he isn’t even Robin in the trio of Wiggins, KAT and himself. LaVine could have potentially declined whatever extension offer the Wolves had for him and opted for free agency this summer. That means, there was the possibility that the Wolves could’ve lost LaVine for nothing.
Now bring in Jimmy Butler’s contract. He is under contract for another two seasons with a player option for a 3rd, which he will likely opt out of for a contract he deserves. He will be 30 years old at that time, which means he is under contract for less than $20M a year during his best playing years. To put this into further perspective, Allen Crabbe is making $1M more a year than Butler over the next two seasons. So salary cap wise, this deal was absolutely genius.
Overall, I commend Tom Thibodeau. He spent the last year assessing his roster and didn’t make any crazy moves so that the Wolves could have the flexibility to make a trade like last night’s. It is clear he understands the value of the players on his roster and ultimately, adding an All-NBA player alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins is a risk that needed to be taken. The real issue was the culture here in Minnesota. The culture needs to change. Butler is going to help build a winning culture around the young players and help them truly understand how to play team defense. If there is one area that the Wolves are going to be happy Jimmy Butler is here for on the court, it is on the defensive end.
What can’t be overlooked though is team chemistry. How is Jimmy Butler going to rally the troops? Wiggins and Towns have looked like numbers chasers on the court this season, which has ultimately made winning not look like a priority. There have been times where Thibs has tried to play Wiggins in the point-forward position but it never seemed natural for him to make good playmaking decisions. Butler will be able to help out in that sense but then you have to wonder, what will Wiggins’ role be in the offense now? Will Butler be more of a facilitator on the floor?
The Wolves now have three legitimate 20 point per game scorers on their roster. While I used to be of the philosophy that there is only one ball on the court at the time, the only way the Wolves flourish is tbrough truly unselfish basketball. The Wolves played a lot of ISO-ball last season and that will need to stop. Outside of the Warriors having four All-Stars, the reason they dominated the league is that they let opponents pick their poison and just moved the ball. I’m not sold Thibodeau has the offensive-genius the Warriors have, but they certainly can start watching a ton of tape.
The thing I am most looking forward to in the court is a Jimmy Butler and KAT pick and roll/ pop game. One thing Wiggins and LaVine were unable to do last year is involve KAT in pick situations. Butler has the shot and playmaking ability to involve KAT heavily in the pick & roll.
It will be interesting to see what position Wiggins plays. He seems more comfortable playing shooting guard through his career. Jimmy Butler can guard anything from the 2-4. If Wiggins can guard the weaker offensive threat between the 2 and 3, he will be able to take full advantage of smaller shooting guards on the offensive end. While small ball has become the new trend in the NBA, the Wolves could take advantage with their length and potential ability to defend the perimeter.
The next question I have is, what happens to Ricky Rubio? He has all the offensive weapons in the world now at his finger tips. He turned the corner at the end of last year. Does Thibs have Rubio in his future plans? Rubio might play great with the new big 3, but would make most sense is adding a 3 and D point guard. I imagine Patty Mills or Patrick Beverly being potential fits. I also think George Hill could be a potential target. This would mean Rubio’s value would lower as teams know we are backed up at point guard.
The final question is, what position will Towns play? Do the Wolves continue to play Dieng and Towns together? I do think Towns is better playing the 5 with the Wolves bringing in a stretch-4 to help offset the lack of shooting. Heck, I wonder if Bjelica might be better off starting. I think the Wolves could have a good hard look at CJ Miles and Patrick Patterson this summer. Neither are starting caliber forwards, but could offer some lineup flexibility throughout the game in stretches where the Wolves need shooting.
This move will certainly have a domino effect though. The Wolves will likely need to add another piece if they are now serious about competing. Where they end up in the West is still yet to be determined. The Clippers, Jazz and Rockets could look very different next season. I will enjoy this trade for now though, regardless where the Wolves end up next season. It is the first time in a while we were on the winning end of a trade. It is probably the biggest move since the Wolves acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.
It is certainly a new era of Wolves basketball.
P.S. I am holding off on Justin Patton talks. I was praying for OG Anunoby. Patton will certainly be a project and my expectations are low this season. He is an energetic player which should be helpful off the bench. I thought a fence-swing was more appropriate at 16 with Anunoby, but you can’t win them all.
P.S.S. I updated some more thoughts and wanted to add this comic because it’s hilarious