The 2017 NBA Draft: Jimmy Butler is a Minnesota Timberwolf

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

So. That happened.

In a move that can only be described as surreal, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden finally pulled the trigger on their first trade since taking over the Wolves in April 2016, sending Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the 7th pick (which became Lauri Markkanen, the stretch four from Arizona) for Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick (which became Justin Patton, the raw center from Creighton; more on him in a minute).

Like, what? I don’t really even know where to begin.

I guess to start off, this trade was a fleecing for the Wolves. Butler instantly gives the team a shot a making the playoffs for the first time in 13 years while simultaneously upping the credibility of Wolves in the eyes of potential free agent signings. His presence in the lineup allows Wiggins to shift to the two, arguably his most natural fit in the NBA, and gives the Wolves another established ball-handler next to Rubio. Additionally, his defense and veteran leadership will be a total boon for the Wolves.

As Thibodeau stated in his post-draft press conference,”[With Butler] you’re getting a two-way player; a guy who can score a lot of different ways; a guy who can guard multiple positions; he can actually guard four positions well; he makes big shots late; plays the right way; he’s tough; he practices hard; he’s smart. We’re excited to get him.”

He continued, “He’s not only a scorer, but he’s a great passer. He’s a playmaker. He’s unselfish and people like to play with players like that. With defense, whatever his assignment is, he’ll embrace it. He’s a bigtime multiple effort guy and, usually, that’s what it takes to win in this league. It’s defense. And good defenders do things in multiples and he’s the best at that.”

Thibodeau added on Butler’s leadership and how it’ll impact Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns,”I think a lot of the things our young players are going through, Jimmy has gone through a lot of those same things. When you see the projection of his career, his first year he played a little, the second year a little more. It was step after step. And I think our players are going through that; how to close games and things like that. I think that’ll be valuable for our players. The most important things, to me, are the things that he does every day. The way he practices, the way he concentrates in meetings, the way he prepares before a game, the things he does for recovery. I think he’ll show our players a lot of things he’s learned along the way.”

However, for as exciting as this trade is, the Wolves’ roster is still far from perfect. Rubio, Wiggins, and Butler, while otherwise being dynamic offensively, have suspect shooting histories, particularly from three. The primary focus in free agency figures to now shift to finding veteran shooters, at all positions, as well as adding bench depth. As of now, the Wolves’ depth chart looks something like:

That’s a strong foundation to build upon. Perhaps Shabazz Muhammad comes back. Perhaps Rubio gets traded still. But the core of the franchise moving forward is Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, and Karl-Anthony Towns. That’s scary.

Now. About Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. Both LaVine and Dunn will be deeply missed by many, present company included. In particular, LaVines’ personality, athleticism, and work ethic was second to none and was a joy to cover over the last three years. He has a very bright future in the Windy City and figures to be the centerpiece of Chicago’s rebuild. Dunn will provide his typical defensive grit and will potentially be handed the keys to the car that is the Chicago Bulls right away. Both players have the attitude and personality to be successful in Chicago.

Although splitting with both players is difficult, when you have the opportunity to obtain a player of Jimmy Butler’s caliber, you do that trade 10 times out of 10. As Thibodeau put it, “We felt that if we had the opportunity to get a player of Jimmy’s caliber that we would do it. Of course, we hated to part ways with Zach and Kris. In order to get a good player like Jimmy, you need to give up good players and we did. And not only are they good players but they’re good people. That’s the tough part. But we felt that it was something that our team needed. We’re excited.” Thibodeau later added, “It’s a good opportunity for Kris and Zach to go to Chicago and I think it’s a great opportunity for Jimmy to come here and getting Justin along with that is a big plus for us.”


Now for some words on Justin Patton. I’ll be first to admit that I don’t know the most about the reigning Big East Freshman of the Year. From what I’ve heard/read, it appears as though he’s a raw, athletic center with a ton of potential. The 7-footer from Creighton connected on 68.3% of his shots from the field and 72.7% around the rim. If I had to guess, I’d imagine Patton would see some time in Iowa this coming season.

Patton seemed very pleased to be joining the Wolves. He stated that upon finding out that he was headed to Minnesota,”The first thing I thought about was how close it is to Omaha and how much water there is there. And I get to experience more cold weather so I’m down for that.”

Patton believes he’ll be a good fit next to Towns going forward.“I think I’ll fit well,” he said. “Him being the smart basketball player he is, he can play multiple positions. It’ll be good to be alongside him. He’s going to definitely make me look good.”

He was also confident in his ability to play multiple positions, which may help his and Towns’ game function well next to each other. “I can put the ball on the ground and I can shoot the ball very well. I think me playing multiple positions is a big possibility.”

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16 Responsesso far.

  1. GG says:

    Can anyone explain me what does this trade mean for Rubio? My initial thought was that his distributional abilities are heighten by surrounding himself with such good personnel, and that he is going to average 10-11 assists/game next season……but then, ….I thought about it again, and I wonder whether Thibs will want to double down on the point Wiggins + point Butler formula/experiment…which I guess would make Rubio dispensable(unless we believe his 3p% is going to be better next season) and an immediate trade candidate for when the transfer market opens on July 1st….

    Hope he stays though, about time Rubio gets to taste playoff time 🙂

    • biggity2bit says:

      My initial take is that this trade is a vote of confidence in Rubio. I think the question is if you think late season Rubio (from last year) is sustainable or not. I for one do, as the biggest change was simply being more aggressive with taking shots. Ironically, doing so may have led to better quality shots for Rubio, hence better success. And recall that almost all of Ricky’s 3s are assisted, so working with Butler might help RR there.

      I think point Wiggins is dead.

      Ultimately, I think it’s hard to give up a heady, hard working and hard playing guy like Rubio unless you’re getting a clear upgrade in return. Financially, keeping RR frees them to pursue one big FA or multiple mid level guys (which might be more likely). Getting that upgrade requires investment, limiting your FA plans. I’m sure they’re looking, but I would think adding a Jamychel Green and some bench guys would help.

      A Tyus-SG-Bjelly-PF-Dieng bench. Or maybe you play G at the 4 with Aldrich getting more burn. So who’s our bench 2 now? Who’s our sixth man?

      I’d rather invest in a quality stretch 4 with the starters and sixth man backup 2 (or combo 2/1) who can shoot the three than trade Ricky.

    • gjk says:

      I thought this also decreased the chances of them trading him, but just reading tweets of guys covering the team makes it seem like they’re still very much interesting in upgrading from him, even if it means using most/all of their cap space on his replacement. That’s obviously disappointing on two fronts, but it likely depends on whether a George Hill or Jrue Holiday wants the Wolves’ $ and whether other teams later need a PG after failing in free agency. The market now seems saturated since a lot of teams who needed a PG ended up drafting one and team like Philly doesn’t have to spend on one any more when it seemed like they would before their trade.

    • enaidealukal says:

      I didn’t hear it myself, but evidently Layden was on KFan and said something about Rubio having a long/successful career here, and apparently Thibs also said that Rubio is the “perfect PG” for this Twolves team. Hardly definitive, I know, but still a good sign.

  2. Dave says:

    I am elated. As much potential as LaVine and, to a lesser extent, Dunn have, we got one of the best 10-15 players in the NBA in Butler.

    ——————————–

    IMO, LaVine is not a good basketball player right now, and is coming off a major injury which may put a dent in his athleticism. Both LaVine and Dunn were in the bottom 20% of players in the NBA in Real Plus-MInus.

    ——————————–

    The draft aspect is just the icing on the cake. Patton vs. Markannen seems like a wash, or extremely close. I would have loved the deal even without getting the Bulls pick back.

    ——————————–

    I also love how this gives us the bling factor to attract an elite FA, which we also have the cap space to pull off.

  3. gjk says:

    !!!!!!

    For some reason, I had reservations last year about such a trade, partially based on the assumption that the Bulls would demand Wiggins and partially because they were at the time giving up the #5 pick as opposed to the reality of Dunn as an NBA player. How they were able to do this is simultaneously shocking and amazing, especially since I’m guessing they weren’t thrilled with their options at #7 once it became clear that Isaac wasn’t falling that far.

    As for Patton, get ready to make the trip to Des Moines to see him, for the G-League team is the reason they can feel comfortable making this pick. There was supposedly a notable drop-off after the top 11 guys in the draft, so 9 spots means more than it might in other drafts. Also, it’s a bit disappointing that they didn’t go for a wing (though it’s fine that they didn’t want to add another questionable wing shooter in Anunoby) or other perimeter player, but they’re taking a swing for the fences that isn’t much different than LaVine being taken 13th in 2014.

  4. Tom says:

    Picking up Butler is so awesome for long suffering fans. The wait appears to be over. He is Gs age and is better than Zack LaVine will be for at least two more years. His contract is so below market value that Thibs should be able to add bench depth and push guys like Belly and Rush to the end of the bench instead of playing them solid minutes every night. His contract is renewed after signing KAT and Wiggins, so we aren’t locked into someone without the other two in place.

    Most importantly, Thibs can get FA without over paying them now that his team is led by a top 15 player, a young soon to be all-star center and Three nightly 20 point scorers. Thibs may be looking for a vet PG, but not necessarily trading Rubio. D Rose as a guy added to this group to give us 3 PG isn’t as crazy as trading Rubio for him.

    This could be the best draft night since KG was drafted.

  5. pyrrol says:

    I was pretty surprised this actually happened. It’s hard not to see this as a big win for the Wolves. I’m not sure our young core could ever get on the rails without a Butler type vet to come in and show them what to do on the court. And we even got the 16th pick! The way the draft was, the difference between 7 and 16 was not that huge…

    First things first. I will miss Zach. I liked his personality and potential. He had one thing we still sorely need after the trade: shooting. It was tough to see him go and on some level I would have rather seen Wiggins walk. Zach gave us shooting and a skill set quite different from Butler. Wiggins and Butler are basically the same position and skill set, with Butler playing how we hope Wiggins will someday. On the other hand, LaVine is injured and might not be back on big minutes until Feb. It could be two years before he’s back to his old self. And the Wolves can’t wait to be competitive any longer. Also, Wiggins isn’t as a good defender but his size and strength suggest he can get better at it faster than LaVine. He can also score in more ways that LaVine and has a ‘get a shot anytime’ midrange game that LaVine lacks.

    I will be blunt: Dunn seemed like a cool guy, but as a player I think I’m actually glad to see him go. I certainly don’t care at all. It’s almost like throwing them nothing into the trade that they think is something. Getting rid of the stench of taking a player like that at 5 and using that value to help bring in Butler freshens the air. I can’t help but laugh at the notion that they think they are getting a high potential young PG in addition to a young SG and our 7. Something we learned this last season is that Dunn is at best a combo guard and if you expect him to replace Rondo right away you are in for a world of pain. Dunn might be more of a 2, but he’s very far from prototypical.

    Interestingly, the Bulls used our pick to pick a guy some speculated we would grab if Isaac was off the board, which he was. Markkanen might end up being a really good player, but he’s not a do everything guy like Butler, and his star potential is modest. It is possible the whole draft’s main objective for us was to try to find a way to get Butler or some other major vet piece. But it is also possible that once Isaac was off the board it was on to trades as we felt we could no longer do what we needed to do with the draft. In all honesty, it may be the former… This team was painful last year. It has become clear that we have no chance to get this rebuild in gear without some vets, and one of those being a really good 2 way player. Losing is contagious and paralyzing and we need someone to lift the young guys out of the habit and show them things the coach has not been able to. I think it is also best to move on from the idea of alpha Wiggins. This trade takes pressure off Andrew, will allow him to be his natural personality on the court without that sinking the team and allow him energy to focus on D and efficiency. Unlikely, but it also might knock down his roll enough so he’s not considered a max player next contract. Because I’m not sure he really is…

    Patton was a strange pick, but I like it. Outside the box. It looks like he might go to Iowa unless he he has a good summer and camp. But I think it makes sense… We need a bench SG badly and maybe another PG and wing. We have arguably three centers, with Aldrich, Towns and Deing. Even though he was a 5 in college, I think Patton might be a shot blocking PF in the NBA. So we might have filled a need there… Or we might have to get a PF on the market, or Thibs might double down on Dieng as starting PF (I hope not).

    Going forward, this immediately makes us more competitive. But we still have flaws. We will need to build a bench. Our guard rotation is shallow, I think we’ll need to pick one up. We aren’t a shooting team. We weren’t really before Butler, but he doesn’t help us in that respect. Jimmy gets buckets, but long mid range to three point shooting is going to be an Achillies heel for this team. I don’t think there is an obvious answer for it except do our best and try to improve shooting. I don’t think going out and trying to find a shooting or scoring PG for Rubio will help and I want to see Rubio on this squad. We’ll just have to work around it, partially by adding role shooters to the roster this summer. I’m hoping Butler has a huge impact on the young guys. But our coaching is going to have to get snappier, particularly with our almost certain daily 3-point shot deficit. Exciting trade, but there are some hidden worries.

  6. Tom says:

    I’m not in the camp that we have hidden worries. I was worried that without a certified All- star on our team and only two extra wins this year, that FA would be a waste of money. Now with Jimmy Butler in the fold, you can turn to a FA like Danilo Galinari and add that stretch four/big three guy or add good vets like JJ Reddick or Amir Johnson and now you have guys like Belly coming in as an eighth or ninth best player and not your sixth man. Thibs won’t have to overspend or over-hype guys that are past their prime or are from Minnesota. He has the money to add three players that people will say are legit NBA players with gas in the tank.

    Before this trade, Portland, Utah OKC and Denver were ahead of the wolves. I love Zack, but the top FA were not going to come to the wolves until yesterday. Now you have the chance to add depth to a starting five that matches most playoff teams in the west on offense and got better defensively. You didn’t eat up most of your cap space and added the best talent to be had to Wiggins and KAT. Now let’s see Thibs add three players that have veteran shooting skills and playoff savvy and watch us move up the standings.

  7. pyrrol says:

    In response to Tom: You make a fantastic point about the legitimacy this trade immediately gives the Wolves and how that will make filling out the roster through free agency etc much easier, and more possible. I hope I didn’t give off the impression that I’m not excited about the trade. I think it is a good move. Simply put, the trade eliminates a lot of worries or flaws we’ve had. It gives us a finisher, a vet, a 2 way player, a mentor, someone with real competitive fire, an all star level talent (proven, not theoretical) someone who can guard multiple positions, someone who legitimizes us as a destination for established players, someone in his prime, someone with extensive playoff experience. We’re instantly a lot better.

    The flip side of the coin is that it’s a shooters league and (sadly) a three point league right now. The heart of so many offenses in the league is currently making a large amount of threes and taking even more. Teams who do this well often bury their less long range opponents with 2-3 ratios. And three happy teams can cover up flaws that less shooter oriented teams just can’t. An unflawed team that plays like this in our era looks like Golden State, and an extremely flawed one looks like Houston. In other words, teams who shoot the three well and without hesitation have a pretty high floor and potential to rule the league if they don’t have obvious flaws. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t enjoy that style of basketball and range from disliking the Warriors to outright disdain for the Rockets. I don’t want the Wolves to play like that. But in this era, with the way the rules are and the emphasis players, coaches and organizations put on shooting and the three, it’s not realistic to be a bad three point shooting team and get too far. It’s actually a problem Chicago has had during much of Butler’s tenure. Trotting out a staring lineup of Rubio Wiggins Butler Deing and Towns (which is still very up in the air at this point) doesn’t really address the Wolves’ already critical deficit in this aspect. We’re going to have to have individual starters step up their shooting from three a lot, in both quality looks and makes, or we’re going to have to be a really good team in a lot of other respects to meet the now much higher expectations for next year. Adding shooters as depth to the roster will only help this so much–the starters have to take and make a certain amount of threes to compete. So yes, even with all that Jimmy does for us, this is still a concern. And it will take time for us to improve on D enough to compete. I mean, we were awful last year on D. Even with Butler’s D and him helping Thibs train the kids (its become obvious Thibs needs help at this…) the D is going to be a project.

    This isn’t to be negative. We went from a likely non competitive team or barely competitive team to a powerful young team with league-wide expectations in an instant. It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to see this team grow. And if you learn a little bit about Butler’s bio, you learn to never count him out.

    • biggity2bit says:

      Fair points about this being a three heavy league. I keep wondering if Thibs is tinkering with his own strange beast, meaning he’s creating a one-off type team that can be successful but likely won’t have a ton of other teams copying it. He won a championship in Boston with a super D. His Chicago teams were consistent meat grinders for any opponent.

      The team I keep thinking of is the Grizzlies. What if he’s creating some kind of Grizzlies v2.0? Ultimately it’s hard to say because we don’t know if KAT and Wigs will ever become physical players, but this is pretty clearly Butler’s team now, and thus you’d expect it to match his personality. Ricky is feisty, KAT is feisty. Even G gets feisty. And if Marc Gasol and Brook Freaking Lopez can become three point threats, there’s no reason G and KAT can’t either.

      Thibs is a very calculating guy, and short of having Lebron or being the Dubs, the next best shot at getting to a championship is the Celtics/Raptors/Spurs model of capturing team synergy in a bottle at the right moment and riding it as long as you can. Playing smart.

      What’s interesting is that if you had athletic or size advantages on top of that, then you can steal some upsets, like when the Wolves beat the Dubs. Wiggins could become The key X factor here, assuming that Ricky-Butler-KAT are the tone setters teams have to game plan around.

  8. pyrrol says:

    It feels like a lot of teams are trying to copy the Warriors. I think that’s a fool’s errand. Even before KD, how can you be like GS with maybe the best 3 oriented 2 guard in the league and the shooting freak that is Curry? That’s part of what makes resurrection D’antoni and Houston so gross. But still, as much as I don’t like it GS has greatly influenced the league in two ways… and even before GS came to be, this league was headed in a three direction for a variety of reasons, particularly current rules. The ways GS has influenced the NBA are turning the three point shooting to a fever pitch (which spawns Houstons and Bostons among others) and now with KD, simply being so loaded and flawless as to make the league panic a bit and as ‘how do we even compete with this?’

    That said, what Thibs has done so far as a coach is a dinosaur outlier. He takes a very low amount of threes and runs an offense that doesn’t really generate great looks or run the proper tempo to pressure a team with jump shots. D is so important and I really respect Thibs for pushing that, although with really poor results here in MN so far. But that’s just a piece. It’s possible to be over reliant on D in this offense driven game. Memphis is a great example. They can’t be a top tier team without better offense and more three point shooting. I like them, have a soft spot, but they aren’t a mold for how to build you team.

    The Spurs are a great example of what I mean. Pop has actually adapted his team and coaching style, maybe reluctantly, seeing the writing on the wall and realizing he needs to keep up with the three point thing to some degree. So he’s sort of incorporated it into a system with diverse offense and really good D. GS is just one step better. I’d actually rather watch the Spurs play, but GS’s shooting is just so damn good and they have really decent D. KD brought them to a new D level. But the Spurs are going at it the right way. You can’t count on ever getting guys like Klay and Steph, to match their shooting. But you need to have diverse offense, shoot enough threes to generally keep up and have good and hard nosed D. The Spurs are a few personnel upgrades from being a real threat to GS and a title.

    I think that’s the model that the Wolves need to follow. Is Thibs really going to have the success he wants being an against the grain one-off? I’m hoping we can take and make enough threes to be like the Spurs and not a Memphis-like novelty (which itself is very far off considering how bad our D has been). He clearly wants grinding D, and so do I. But his assistant gig in Boston also included a very good offensive team.

    I’ve heard a few echo your very good point above about size advantages. While many teams are going small or play best with small lineups, we have a big superstar in the making. We could give the GS’s of the league real trouble. KAT is a key in this–he’s becoming so unstoppable in the post and those points are so easy compared to 40ft jack ups. When you are hot those are daggers but everyone cools down. KAT can get his points pretty much any game–doesn’t have to be anything more than lukewarm. Plus Butler (and hopefully Wiggins) just get buckets. And like I stated above, we aren’t chasing the GS model, which I respect and think is cool and smart in a way. I’m not trying to be negative. I think that we can improve our three point shooting if we put our mind to it (as a team and individuals) make it a priority, and upgrade the trimmings of the roster this summer. I’m not so sure this isn’t what Thibs intends–he might not be as much of a dino as people are thinking. I’ve heard rumblings that he’s looking at trade/free agent PGs who can shoot more reliably than Rubio to make up some of the shooting deficit. I think this is foolish and we should keep Rubio and his good contract, count on everyone to do their part shooting threes and improving and try to add a few good but more affordable free agents than say one hyper expensive guy like Lowry.

    • biggity2bit says:

      I think, as a data outlier, the amount of games we lost after having a double digit lead is noteworthy. I forget the typical expected win percentage, but I thought it was like 70-80% of the time, and we came in at like 30%.

      What this suggests to me is that, as flawed as our team, roster, and schemes were last year, we had a legitimate and reasonable chance to be a .500 club and likely managed to find some special cause variation in order to underperform.

      Furthermore, the reason we lost games was not due to offensive production, despite the lack of threes. Perhaps we’re underselling the offensive talent of KAT, Wigs, and Lavine/Butler in that they are so good that they can keep pace with three heavy teams without needing to shoot lots of threes themselves.

      Even defensive improvement to league average with the same offense vaults us solidly into the 45-50 win range (with Butler, Bazz, Aldrich, etc), assuming we perform to historic league norms in converting leads to wins.

      In other words, there is evidence to suggest we underperformed last year, that underperformance is due to defensive lapses, and our dinosaur offense has the right uber talented players in it that it still held its own against modern offenses. It actually put us in position to win more often than not, were it not for the defense.

      More threes would help our efficiency, but clamping down consistently on perimeter defense over the course of a season and playoff series could make us a difficult matchup for anybody. I get the Lowry rumors – it’s an easy poach of top level talent at a diminished price, which fits Thibs’ MO. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the signings are more modest – relatively good shooters but heady guys who fit defensively. A defensive backup PG, and another backup shot blocker.

      • GG says:

        I hope Thibs reads your messages, very valid points exposed in your replies… The future for the franchise looks very promising… I live in Norway but I’m already looking for tickets for the home opener (always under the assumption that we keep Ricky!)

        • biggity2bit says:

          Cool! I was just in Norway a little over a week ago. So beautiful there. Already trying to figure out how to get back and visit the cabins I was invited to by relatives (one outside Bergen, the other north of Oslo outside Grua).

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