With less than two weeks left before the start of training camps across the league, everyone suddenly has dreams about seeing their favorite team add Jimmy Butler. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but its very unlikely to happen for anyone — whether you’re a fan of the New Orleans Pelicans or the Los Angeles Lakers.
We’ve all closely monitored the news of Butler’s unhappiness with several teammates inside the Timberwolves locker room, and who hasn’t heard about the upcoming scheduled meeting with Tom Thibodeau to reach some common ground? Many consequently assume Butler can’t be long for Minnesota’s roster with just one guaranteed season remaining on his contract, but in piecing the puzzle together, there’s a more likely outcome to this scenario that doesn’t involve his departure.
Without a doubt, Butler is a 29-year-old veteran who has no time for those who aren’t committed to winning basketball games. We listened to both he and Dwyane Wade throw younger teammates under the bus while in Chicago, and more recently, Butler appeared to call out a few on his current roster as Minnesota was struggling to secure a spot in last spring’s postseason.
“We’ve just got to get tougher. We’ve got to play like some dogs with a sense of urgency,” Butler said. “Teams just do whatever they want against us. I don’t like it. Ain’t no coach in the world that can make somebody play hard. Ain’t no coach in the world that can make anybody want it.”
“We do have guys around the league where that’s them,” Butler said. “Are they going to play hard? Probably not. But they’re in this league for a reason. Everybody is talented, don’t get me wrong, but what separates the really good players from the great ones is how you bring it every single day in the game and practice. You’ve got to go at everything 100 percent.”
As a reminder, Butler also talked about needing to go hard on every possession back in January when he was referencing Andrew Wiggins, who had stepped up his production while Jimmy was sidelined.
“Impose your will in every aspect of the game,” Butler said. “He’s learning, and that’s all you can ask from him, but I want him to be great, and the only way to do that is to play hard every possession, every night.”
While players often dismiss their head coaches when things go south, Butler has done nothing but voice support in Thibodeau’s direction because they’re both cut from the same cloth.
“I just don’t think there have been many people that have understood how important winning is to me,’’ Butler told the Sun-Times. “I just had a conversation about that very thing with somebody — not important who — but I put so much into this game and I only play to win. I don’t play for any individual stats or accolades. And at times I get lost in how everybody is not built the way that I’m built.”
“The same with Thibs. People don’t understand that he puts so much time into his craft. He understands what it takes. But sometimes I just look around, and I don’t understand how or why you all don’t love to get better the way that I do.’’
Karl-Anthony Towns is another who has drawn the ire of both Butler and Thibodeau in moments which led to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst to proclaim that KAT could be on the move in the near future.
“I don’t think Anthony Davis is going anywhere any time soon,” Windhorst said. “But Karl Towns … now that might be a different story.”
However, while Towns’ effort has come into question, it’s hard to imagine the Minnesota organization giving up first on a player who is knocking on the door of superstardom. In his age-22 season, KAT was one of the most efficient high volume shooters from anywhere on the court as evidenced by a 64.6 TS% on 14.3 field goal attempts a game. His 42.1% was the 12th highest across the league among players who attempted at least three three-pointers a game. You’ve got to give him more time to fix the defensive kinks.
Conversely, Wiggins shot only 33.1% from deep and posted a career worst true shooting percentage (50.4%). Then when factoring his questionable effort, defensive issues and a five-year, $147.7 million contract extension beginning this next season, Wiggins looks the most ripe to be dealt. After all, team owner Glen Taylor had expectations of so much more when he agreed to pay the max-level extension.
“To me, by making this offer, I’m speculating that his contribution to the team will be more in the future,” Taylor told The Associated Press. “We’ve got to be better. He can’t be paid just for what he’s doing today. He’s got to be better.
”So when you’re talking about negotiations on his part, I’m already extending to him that I’m willing to meet the max. But there are some things that I need out of him, and that is the commitment to be a better player than you are today.”
Wiggins wasn’t better, he was noticeably worse. Believe it or not, however, he would in all likelihood support the notion of being shipped off elsewhere.
Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins is not happy with his current role on the team, according to KSTP News in Minneapolis.
The 23-year-old has seen his production fall off significantly since the team acquired Jimmy Butler in the offseason and he apparently does not like being a third option.
”There’s some buzz that he has whispered to some teammates that he doesn’t like being third fiddle,” KSTP reporter Darren Wolfson told ESPN Radio in Minneapolis Wednesday. ”Wiggins could potentially seek to get out in the offseason.”
Everyone is aware of the Timberwolves 16-game improvement in the win column, finishing the 2017-18 regular season with a 47-35 record. However, Minnesota went 10-13 in the 23 games Butler missed. Now Luol Deng has joined Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson on the sidelines — Thibodeau is pulling out all the stops for his game-changer. The Head Coach is fully catering to Butler so we should bet Butler is his ride or die. There’s just no way Thibodeau is going to trade his favorite player away while he remains president of basketball operations. And as alluded to earlier, one doesn’t give up on a player of Town’s caliber if one wishes to stay in the league. Hence, by process of elimination, Wiggins should be packing his bags if it’s decided the trio must be split up.
The question, of course, shifts to what team should be willing to take a chance on the much maligned former first overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. While it’s fun to contemplate an athletic wing with his length in New Orleans, the thought of paying Wiggins, a noted underachiever, in excess of $25 million a season for the next five years would be foolhardy. The Pelicans already have big money commitments to Jrue Holiday and Davis and with Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic seeking new deals after next season — two players who are vastly superior to Wiggins, the front office is in no position to give the experiment a try. However, for a team that’s starved for more talent and needs to take a risk, say the Charlotte Hornets or Sacramento Kings, Wiggins could makes sense.
The Timberwolves most recognizable players haven’t seen eye-to-eye for some time, but don’t expect the Pelicans to get lucky and land a famed player from this expected fallout. That’s okay though. The cost of acquiring and keeping Wiggins would represent a step backwards — a direction New Orleans has long tired of walking.