The recent blockbuster trade involving both the Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves has taking the front and centre in all talking points around the NBA. Jimmy Butler is being sent to the 76ers along with Justin Patten while Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a 2nd round, 2022 draft pick going to the Timberwolves. Don’t let the excess players distract you from the fact this trade was essentially Saric and Covington for Butler. We’ll break down all aspects of this trade and let you know whom we think won the trade, the new ceilings for both teams and what this will mean for the league.
Firstly, lets discuss the winners and losers of the trades. In terms of players lost, it feels like the Timberwolves have lost, as Butler is a superstar talent on both ends of the floor. But lets really break this down. In terms of analytics, both teams come out ok. The 76ers lost essentially, 22.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game with the lost of Saric and Covington. The Timberwolves have lost 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 in Butler. This is only taking the basic box scores into account, without considering the defensive effort, which we can cancel out, as Butler and Covington are both All-NBA defenders. These numbers would have been crunched for both teams before pulling the trigger on this trade. So taking these numbers into account, it seems like Philly lost the trade in terms of rebounds and points but all this will mean is that a few extra players will pick up the slack. Lets not forget, Philly have a 6’10 point guard in Ben Simmons who adds rebounds to a position that may usually not contribute a great deal to a teams rebounding statistics. We’d also imagine that both players being sent to the Wolves would come off the bench where as in Philadelphia, Butler will start as soon as possible. The only nervous part of the trade will be if Philly can lock down Butler with a long-term contract. This is definitely a possibility but trading away younger players for the 29-year-old Butler can be a risk. The Wolves have pick up some solid younger players that can assist with their long-term team plans. We can’t really pick a winner and a loser from this as both teams got something that can help their team in both the short-term and the long-term.
The ceiling for each team is something that has changed drastically. Firstly, the 76ers have suddenly leapt to not only Eastern Conference favorites but are looking much better to win it all in the finals. They are now favorites to win the East, most likely meeting Toronto there to find out who is best in a 7 game series. Before we can really go to deep into how high they can go, we need to see their (76ers) new big 3 play together. Joel Embiid and Simmons are both ball centric players, which can see a standard Philly game resulting in the ball being mostly in their hands. Whether they can defer to a new, more established player remains to be seen but on paper, the team is looking the goods to go very far. Minnesota has seen their window for the short-term success potentially slam shut with this trade. They are currently struggling in the West and with Butler exiting; the situation can potentially remain the same. It does result in the off the court drama leaving but does leave a large hole to fill. The big advantage for the Wolves in this trade is their youth. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Saric and Covington are all starting to get to the meat of their careers where they will be having their best output. While short-term success is most likely gone, they are able to develop their young core to a stronger point where in 3 or 4 years, they will be in the top fold of the league and challenging for titles. We call the winner in the immediate term still Philadelphia while in a long-term plan it being still being even depending on whether Butler signs and if all their players remain on as the young core of Simmons and Embiid will still compete for top honors regardless of what other pieces are around them.
For Philly’s immediate hopes, Butler adds not only a strong defender and court spacer, but also a toughness they seem to lack. Simmons and Embiid are sometimes careless with the ball and have no consequence besides each other with any laziness on the court but with the addition of Butler, they will have someone who will be pushing them (whether in a positive or negative way) to perform night after night and also giving them someone else to rely on if things aren’t going their way during the game.
Just on a note outside of the game, the Timberwolves have demonstrated how not to rebuild a franchise. They have effectively traded Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Justin Patten for Covington, Saric and the future second round pick. We will go in-depth on this in a future article, as this is definitely not the way to handle a rebuild.
Time will tell which team made the best decision on this trade but regardless, this trade will create buzz around the league for a team that can potentially topple the Golden State Warriors. As good as that previous statement sounds and regardless of how good the trade looks on paper, whether all the pieces on the 76ers can fit together and work as a complete team will remain to be seen. One thing that will remain regardless is that it is a very exciting time to be a Philly fan and time to take a breath of relief in you’re a Timberwolves fan with all the extra drama that Butler took with him when he left the franchise.