The Minnesota chapter of Jimmy Butler’s career has finally come to an end and while a reunion with Tom Thibodeau sounded the part, his longtime head coach decided that it was time for both parties to move on.
After weeks of evaluating offers from a multitude of teams, the Timberwolves elected to pull the trigger on a deal that included young players with upside and draft capital. The Philadelphia 76ers acquired Butler and Justin Patton, sending Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second round pick back to Minnesota.
Philadelphia, looking for a way to catapult itself to the top of the Eastern Conference, gave up quite a bit for the perennial All-Star. It remains unclear, however, if the move brings them ahead of Toronto and Boston as favorites out of the East.
While Butler is arguably one of the league’s best two-way players, he struggles in an area that was already a concern for Philadelphia. Perimeter shooting and offensive efficiency are not strong suits for the 76ers and giving up both Covington and Saric will not help.
At the time of this trade, the 76ers rank 21st in offensive efficiency and 16th in effective field goal percentage. While Philadelphia ranks 10th in three-pointers attempted per game, the team drops to 22nd in three-point percentage. Simply put, Philadelphia must find a way to become more consistent from behind the arc.
The big three of Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are not created equal in this regard. While Butler and Embiid can be serviceable from range, Simmons is still working on his ability as a shooter. Butler is attempting more three-pointers per game than he ever has before in his seven-year career, but he is only converting on 1.7 of his 4.5 attempts each night.
Covington, one of the players that Philadelphia elected to deal, however, is a bigger threat from beyond the arc. Covington is attempting 5.9 threes a game and is cashing in on 2.3. Saric’s 1.6 three-pointers per game brings Minnesota to almost four a game now. In the end, 12 points could certainly be the difference between a win or loss.
Philadelphia, though, is rumored to still be active in trade talks with other teams. With the team’s obvious shooting concerns, Cleveland’s Kyle Korver has become a potential target. If the 76ers can make another key addition to their roster, there is no denying the talent that could certainly make them serious contenders.
The lone risk to this trade comes with a hefty price tag. Butler is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and if the team fails to re-sign him in the offseason, the deal could come back to haunt the franchise.
However, Philadelphia owns one major advantage over the rest of the league. The team can offer him a five-year, $190 million contract, while the rest of the NBA will cap at four-years, $150 million.
As of Nov. 13, the 76ers are in third place in the Eastern Conference at 9-6. Sitting just over three games behind Toronto for first, Philadelphia must ultimately believe that Butler will help them close the gap.
It is still too early to evaluate Butler’s true impact, but excitement is not in short demand as Philadelphia aims to complete the process.
Anthony Talarico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ant_tal.