Minnesota lost every game on a five-game road trip, with Friday night’s loss in Sacramento being the last straw — even Tom Thibodeau finally had to admit that the chemistry on his Timberwolves squad was a disaster with the Jimmy Butler trade request hanging over the team.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia has started off slow and played flat — while they are 8-5 they have the point differential of a team 6-7 (a net rating of -0.6) with a bottom ten offense. While Joel Embiid has been a beast, Ben Simmons has plateaued to start the season, Markelle Fultz is still figuring a lot of things out, and the Sixers have just looked pedestrian. They needed a jump start.
Jimmy Butler will do that.
The Sixers will acquire Butler as well as Justin Patton in a trade that will send Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second round pick to the Timberwolves. Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of the Athletic broke the story, which has since been confirmed by others.
With the league offices closed for the weekend, the trade cannot become official until Monday when the trade call can take place.
Philadelphia is trading for Butler with the full intention of re-signing him next summer when Butler is a free agent, and there is no way this deal gets done without a wink-and-nod agreement from Butler’s team that he would stay. The max he can earn is five years, $190 million, and while other teams are hesitant about that length of a deal for Butler, the Sixers have cashed in key assets and are all in now.
Minnesota did okay in what was a shotgun deal after Butler dropped his trade request right before the start of camp (although I think Miami’s Josh Richardson/first rounder offer was better). Robert Covington is a coveted “3&D” wing who will bring the kind of hustle and energy that Minnesota needs (and Butler delivered, but Covington will do it with less ego and attitude). Dario Saric gives them another big who can stretch the floor.
Minnesota also sent Butler out of the West, where he could have done a lot more damage to the Timberwolves in an already stacked conference.
Philadelphia looked back at last summer — when they went big game hunting for another star player, only to strike out — then looked at the free agency landscape going forward and realized they needed to act now. It’s a gamble that Butler, Embiid, and Simmons can mesh, but it’s a good bet to take. Philly’s big four — Embiid, Butler, Simmons, with J.J. Redick — is as good as anyone’s (outside of the Bay Area) but who will be the fifth player, and will the Sixers depth step become the questions. What this ultimately means for Markelle Fultz is also something to watch.
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