When the Minnesota Timberwolves traded controversial player Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers, he left the Timberwolves little choice but to try to salvage the best value the team could get. But with his ability to almost single-handedly will the Miami Heat to NBA Playoffs success, many Minnesota Timberwolves fans are left wondering what might have been if the team had settled on a way to keep Butler happy.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have had some incredible NBA players on their roster at one time or another, but perhaps no player was more controversial and polarizing than the former Minnesota Timberwolves guard, Jimmy Butler.
Butler was so controversial because he demanded excellence from himself, his teammates, and his team. The demands he places on himself each and every day are what makes him such an attractive and successful NBA player today. The demands that he places on his teammates and team are what makes him so controversial and polarizing.
And yet, he is leading the Miami Heat to success, the type of success that players, fans, and the Minnesota Timberwolves organization want to enjoy as well. Is this the journey that the Minnesota Timberwolves could have, would have, been on if the team had backed a brash and confrontational Jimmy Butler over then-center Karl Anthony Towns? I’m not so sure. What we do know is that Butler created the type of situation that paved the way to be traded.
Butler was as much confrontation as competition with the Minnesota Timberwolves
How so? Former teammate Jeff Teague shared ‘what really happened,’ with Jimmy Butler’s Timberwolves outburst on a Club 520 video podcast, and while the story may be one you’ve heard before, it’s worth revisiting:
In the aftermath, Butler later admitted that he was trying to motivate his teammates to compete harder, but that he used the wrong tactics.
Yes, Jimmy Butler did help lead the Minnesota Timberwolves into the 2018 NBA Playoffs, but he was not the superstar then that he is now. In fact, that year Butler averaged:
34.0 minutes | 15.8 points | 6.0 rebounds | 4.0 assists | 0.8 steals | 0.2 blocks
and shot just 44.4 percent from the floor, 47.1 percent from the perimeter, and 83.3 percent from the foul line.
The Timberwolves would lose to the Houston Rockets in Round 1 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. Nobody enjoyed losing, but Jimmy Butler hated it with a passion. At that time in his career, he did not become a smoldering juggernaut that could not be stopped. Instead, he wore his emotions on his sleeve, challenging those closest to him to feel and act the same way. Now? He has learned how to channel that rage in ways that fuel his competitiveness, to becoming an unstoppable opponent on the basketball court.
That is quite the change from the player who burned out of control with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who blazed their path to the NBA Playoffs but then burned all of the bridges to his teammates and coaches along the way.