76ers Trade for Disgruntled Star Jimmy Butler

Zach Schiller, Maroon-News Staff

Once again, a star player in the National Basketball League got his way. This time, it was Jimmy Butler.

The seemingly inevitable move finally happened on November 10, when All-Star forward Butler was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Philadelphia 76ers, along with center Justin Patton, in exchange for forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric, guard Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick.

The move officially brings the attempt to integrate Butler to the team–the Butler Experiment–to an end in Minnesota, a little more than a year after he was acquired from the Chicago Bulls on June 22, 2017, the day of the NBA Draft.

In Butler’s only full season in Minnesota, the Timberwolves made great strides, reach- ing the playoffs for the first time in 14 years before losing to the first seed Houston Rockets four games to one.

However, beneath all the success of last season, a series of tensions existed between Butler and his teammates, most notably former top overall picks for- ward Andrew Wiggins and center Karl-Anthony Towns.

These tensions escalated to the point where Butler demanded to be traded before the start of this season, and appeared to have no desire to ever wear a Timberwolves uniform again.

Despite these requests, Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau refused to grant Butler’s request, believing that losing Butler would significantly hamper the team’s ability to win.

About a week before the season, Butler returned to Timberwolves practice and unexpectedly subbed in with the second and third-stringers to defeat the starters in a scrimmage. During the game, Butler was extremely animated: When guard- ing Towns in the post, he yelled, “He can’t do s—- against me!” He later yelled at General Manager Scott Layden, “You f—— need me! You can’t win without me.”

When asked later in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols if his returning to practice meant that Butler’s situation with the organization was resolved, Butler was straightforward.

“It’s not. It’s not fixed. Just to be honest, it’s not fixed,” Butler said.

Butler ended up beginning the season with the Timberwolves, but the results did not come close to matching last season’s.

Butler’s antics on and off the court had clearly affected the organization, as the Timberwolves sat second-to-last and were in the midst of a five-game losing streak before moving Butler.

The writing on the wall had become clear; a change was necessary in Minnesota. In Butler, the 76ers are getting a motivated star, hell-bent on winning right now. His attitude has rubbed certain teammates the wrong way over the years, most notably with Towns and Wiggins, whom he has respectively referred to as only being concerned with personal stats and not having any heart.

However, with two young competitors, guard Ben Simmons and center Joel Embiid comprising one of the most dynamic duos in the league, Butler adds a gritty, experienced presence that can perhaps push this team to an Eastern Conference Championship, and maybe even an NBA Championship in June.

The move makes sense for the 76ers on many levels. For one, the Butler trade presents a low risk, high reward situation.

Acquiring an All-Star without giving up any crucial pieces from their young core keeps the Sixers in a position to compete for a championship for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether Butler leaves during this summer’s free agency period.

Additionally, by having him on roster before free agency officially begins, the Sixers are in a position to offer Butler a five-year max contract worth $190 million, while other teams can only offer Butler four years for $141 million.

The Sixers should be happy with any advantage they can get.

With a possible starting five that could feature Simmons, Embiid, Butler, along with veteran guard J.J. Reddick (who provides much needed experience and three-point shooting) and former top pick guard Markelle Fultz, the Sixers have the lineup to compete with any team on any given night. The Eastern Conference just got a whole lot more interesting. The clear frontrunners are the Sixers, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors.

Contact Zach Schiller at [email protected].