Jimmy “Buckets” is finally on the move.
Monday, the Minnesota Timberwolves officially traded Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick.
The deal ends an uncomfortable and strange saga for the Timberwolves. After demanding a trade in the offseason, Butler was openly critical of both teammates and coaches. Tom Thibodeau, coach and team president of the Timberwolves, thought the franchise could work through the issues with Butler. After a 5-9 start, it became evident that the situation would not work out.
Because Butler's discontentment was so public, the T-Wolves were working out of a position of weakness. It is surprising though that the team was unable to extract a first-round pick to move the four-time NBA All-Star.
The word around the league is that Thibodeau coveted players who could contribute right away more than draft picks. That explains why the team turned down multiple offers from the Houston Rockets (amongst other teams). Once included Eric Gordon, Nene and two future first-round picks. Another included a whopping four first-round picks.
Despite the slow start, the Rockets are expected to be one of the top teams in the league for years to come. It makes sense that Timberwolves officials were not overly excited about obtaining a bunch of late first-round picks that might as well be second-rounders.
Covington and Saric are talented, young players who should both be solid additions to the Minnesota rotation. The 6-foot-9 Covington is a prototypical, modern 3-and-D player. The 6-foot-10 Saric is a point-forward type of player with a penchant for dropping dimes. He reminds me a bit of Toni Kukoc.
Neither player is a good as Butler, but both should be able to contribute right away. The 27-year-old Covington is probably at or near his peak as a player. However, the 24-year-old Saric has plenty of room to grow and should get every opportunity in Minnesota. Still, I would've liked the deal better for Minnesota if it had gotten a first-round pick. A second-round pick is like a raffle ticket. There’s a chance you could win a prize, but it’s probably not happening.
At least the T-Wolves acquired some talent in the deal. There was a 100% chance that Butler would’ve left in free agency (probably earlier) if a deal hadn’t been struck. Plus, one would have to expect a little addition by way of subtraction involved in removing the toxic agent out of the Minnesota locker room.
With the deal completed, the big question is now whether Butler can help the 76ers get over the hump in the Eastern Conference. Alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Butler gives the 76ers three bona fide All-Star caliber players in the starting lineup. Whereas I didn’t believe the Sixers were ready to make a legitimate run in the East before the deal, now they are ready.
The Celtics, Raptors, Bucks and Sixers can duke it out for the Eastern crown like an exhilarating episode of Game of Thrones. Whichever team can remain healthy and get on a hot streak towards the end of the season may emerge victorious. It will be exciting to see how the East shakes out.
Trouble for GSW?
Jimmy Butler isn’t the only player stirring up trouble in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors suspended Draymond Green for one game for “conduct detrimental to the team” after a verbal altercation between Green and Kevin Durant.
The dust-up happened Monday night during a close game with the Los Angeles Clippers. With the game tied and just second left on the clock, Green rebounded a missed Clippers shot, ignored Durant’s calls for the basketball, dribbled down the court and lost the ball. The Warriors were unable to get up a shot attempt and the game went into overtime (which they eventually lost).
Durant yelled at Green for not passing him the ball. Green responded like you would expect Draymond Green to respond. He went OFF on Durant. According to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Green questioned Durant’s commitment to the team due to his free agent status. It was also clear from the video that Green called Durant out of his name several times during the heated altercation.
Two key circumstances likely played into the Warriors’ decision to suspend Green for one game without pay. First, the team obviously would like to re-sign Durant. Secondly, Durant is notoriously thin-skinned. Look no further than his “I’m not talking to you” All-Star episode with Russell Westbrook or the fact that he often takes time out to argue with trolls and detractors on the internet.
The organization had to take a stand against Green’s outburst if it wants to have any chance at keeping KD in The Bay. Personally, I have had a hunch that this season would be Durant’s last with the Warriors. Obviously this situation doesn’t help.
However, I fully expect Green to apologize once he returns to the team and the squad will get back to its winning ways. It was telling though that DeMarcus Cousins was the primary player trying to calm down Green during the altercation. If the Warriors are fussing and fighting without “Boogie” in uniform, what will happen once the volatile center joins the mix?
Circus Mayweather off, Spence vs Garcia on
Last week, I discussed the fight announcement for a fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa. A day after the article was released, Mayweather announced that he was pulling out of the fight. A week later? There are rumors that the fight could be back on. We just have to wait and see.
You know what?
If you play around with circuses, you’re bound to look like a clown. My bad.
Why waste time and energy trying to figure out what sideshow Mayweather will be a part of next when real fights are being made between elite fighters such as Errol Spence and Mikey Garcia.
Spence (24-0-0, 21 KO) will defend his IBF welterweight title against Garcia on March 16 in at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, Texas. Garcia (39-0-0, 30 KO) holds the IBF and WBC world lightweight titles but will move up two divisions to try to add another belt around his waist.
I’ll save my analysis for closer to fight time, but kudos to Garcia for calling out the bigger, stronger opponent and backing up his talk by signing on the dotted line when the opportunity arose.
The fight will headline the first Fox Sports PPV card as networks scramble to pick up some of the void left by the departure of HBO from the fight scene.
Follow Ishmael and In the Clutch on Twitter @ishcreates. Also, subscribe to The St. Louis American’s YouTube page to catch episodes of Sports Break with Ishmael and Melvin Moore.