From what I have been reading in the immediate aftermath of Jimmy Butler coming to Minnesota in Thursday’s trade with the Chicago Bulls, a lot of people seem to think the Timberwolves took advantage of the Bulls.
It’s clear Minnesota got the better player now in Butler. He had a career year in 2016-17, averaging 23.9 points per games, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists. He got to the line 8.9 times per game and shot 86.5 percent. He is one of the best two-way players in the league, and his defense should be far more valuable than his offense to Minnesota.
Opponents shot 47.5 percent against Minnesota last season. That stat ranked the Timberwolves 28th out of 30 teams in the league. They also got torched by guards blowing by them on defense and dishing to big men down low for two points. The biggest and most glaring number is the points per game allowed (106.7).
That’s simply too much. That stat ranked Minnesota 18th in the league.
Where Butler might help the most is late in games. Minnesota lost many big leads in the second of half game last season, but Butler gives Minnesota another primetime offensive option, whether he is hitting a floater, pulling up for a jumper or getting to the free throw line. He will alleviate the pressure off Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in big moments.
However, I don’t think Chicago got completely ripped off like a lot of other people.
The Bulls are getting two young players in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, and they drafted Lauri Markkanen.
While LaVine is coming off an ACL injury, he is young and has shown there is much more to his game than his ability to fly over opponents. He has improved his scoring average from 10.1 to 18.9 from his rookie season to last year. He shot 38.7 percent from 3 and on 6.6 attempts per game. He is a big-shot taker and a big-shot maker. It might take him a bit to get situated after coming off this recent injury, but he will fit in nicely and has a chance to show he can be the man in Chicago. He will be out of the shadows of Towns and Wiggins, and will have the chance to shine.
Dunn didn’t get too much run for Minnesota last season, and he seemed to frustrate Thibodeau a lot. But he can be a defensive nightmare for opposing point guards. He has great lateral quickness, tremendously quick hands and is athletic. His offensive game is limited because he can’t shoot, but this is a guy who needs a chance to get comfortable, make mistakes and learn the game.
Can’t say much about Markkanen. Only time will tell, but it would be cool to see him develop into a guy who thrives in big moments.
I’ll be interested to see where Chicago goes from here. General manager John Paxson said the team is in rebuild mode. Where will the franchise go from here and what kind of free agents, if any, will the team target?
For now, Minnesota wins the trade. But years down the road, I think Chicago will be just fine. The Bulls have two guys around whom they can build, while the Timberwolves get an NBA All-Star who is just entering his prime.
It’s just too bad the season starts in October.