We’re coming up on the anniversary of the Jimmy Butler trade that the Minnesota Timberwolves made on draft night last June. Was it worth it?
Last year, the Minnesota Timberwolves made a huge trade on draft night by acquiring star Jimmy Butler. As you may recall, the Wolves gave up guards Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick to the Chicago Bulls for Butler and the 16th pick. The Wolves then drafted forward Justin Patton and the Bulls drafted Lauri Markkanen.
Butler was reunited with his former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
“We were looking at all the possibilities,” Thibodeau told KSTP.com after the trade. “If there was a way to get a player of Jimmy’s ability, we were going to do it.”
The trade obviously paid off for the Wolves. Butler averaged 22.2 points per game and had a career-high in overall shooting (47.4% percent) and steals per game (2.0). He also was an All-Star for the fourth year in a row, All-NBA Third Team for the second year in a row and NBA All-Defensive Second Team for the fourth time.
The Wolves were the third seed in the West with a 36-25 record until Butler injured his knee on Feb. 23 and missed 17 games. They went 8-9 in his absence before he returned for the final three games of the season, which all resulted in wins and a playoff spot.
In the final game of the regular season, the Wolves beat the Nuggets by a score of 112-106 in overtime in the battle for the final seed. Butler led the Wolves with 31 points.
The Wolves lost to the Houston Rockets in five games during the playoffs, but in their 121-105 win in game three, Butler led the Wolves with 28 points. He also chipped in with seven rebounds and five assists.
You can make a strong argument that he has been the Wolves best player since Kevin Garnett, and the case can also be made that the Wolves would have benefited more in the long-run by keeping LaVine and then drafting Markkanen (if they would have still picked him), but this was still the right move. Of course, it is also still unknown if Patton will pan out or not.
Butler not only was their best player this year, but also helped lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Had he not been injured they would have had a great shot at the third or seed and perhaps advanced past the first round. LaVine is younger, but not as good. He also did not return until February from his ACL injury. The Wolves would not have made the playoffs.
Since Garnett was traded in 2007, Wolves fans had to keep waiting and hoping that they will be relevant again. They had only the future to look forward to. Getting Butler changed that.
One of Butler’s best games of the season was on December 27 against the Denver Nuggets. The Wolves won 128-125. Butler had a season-high 39, which included going 16-18 at the free throw line.
This was the Wolves’ best season in 14 years and Butler was the main reason for that. Karl-Anthony Townsalso played a huge role and appeared in all 82 games, but without Butler they don’t make the playoffs.
His two-way play and leadership has been extremely beneficial to the team, meaning this trade seemed to work out for the Timberwolves all the way around.