The Jimmy Butler trade has brought an end to the saga in Minnesota. Mercifully, one might argue. This strained relationship is no more as each party is moving on. We have much to discuss about the Jimmy Butler trade, so let’s get to it.
Minnesota Receives: Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, 2nd Round Pick
I have to say I’m surprised the Wolves didn’t get a first round pick. Regardless, the Wolves did well. Robert Covington has one of the best contracts in the NBA. Covington is essentially the 90th percentile version of Jimmy Butler, and he is in the first year of a new 4-year/$46.9 million contract. Butler is making $18.7 million this year and will be eligible for a 5-year/$190 million contract in the summer of 2019.
Butler was 4th in RPM last season, while Covington was 8th. Covington posted a better DRPM than Butler, presumably because he doesn’t exert as much energy on offense. Still, Covington was 12th in defensive rating and 5th in defensive win shares. He was 2nd in DPIPM, and 3rd in DPOE. Covington lead the league last year in both deflections per game and total deflections. He was fake 1st team All Defense, and real 1st team All Defense.
Again, the high marks weren’t just on defense. Yes, Covington was 2nd in DPIPM last year behind only Rudy Gobert, but he was 8th in PIPM. (Butler was 14th). Over his last 627 three-point attempts, Covington has shot 37%. We know it takes 750 three-point attempts to learn a player’s true marksmanship from distance. We’re getting really close to a verified reality where Covington is a high 30’s three-point shooter.
Covington is *really* good, locked into a very team friendly contract, and exactly 15 months younger than Butler.
Robert Covington is good at defense. pic.twitter.com/mDiQbqQCbW
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) November 8, 2018
The other pieces
This heading somewhat minimizes the other parts to the Jimmy Butler trade, but don’t let the optics fool you. Minnesota did well in this trade, and Saric gives this team a stretch-4. Not that Thibs, like, uses rotations, but with a ball dominant player gone and shooters in Covington, Saric, and Bayless, Towns theoretically has room to operate near the basket now.
Saric has another year on his rookie deal past this season before becoming a restricted free agent. Bayless is making $8.6 million this season but it’s the last year of his deal. Minnesota can just walk away after this. It’s being reported that the 2nd rounder is in 2022.
This is a pretty good return for the Jimmy Butler trade. You’d expect to see a first in a deal for someone of Butler’s caliber, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that Thibs valued veterans over picks. Covington on his contract is a major asset. I’ve never been a big “addition by subtraction” person, but cleaning out this toxic locker room situation is probably best for everyone involved.
Philadelphia Receives: Jimmy Butler, Justin Patton
Remember when we couldn’t believe the Wolves got a first back in the Butler deal? Well, that pick is already out the door after an entire four minutes played in a Wolves jersey. Justin Patton coupled with Kris Dunn taken directly in front of Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray kinda makes me question Thibs as a general manager.
Look, you don’t need me to explain to you that Butler is awesome. You already know that. He is probably a top ten player without totally nerd-ing out about it right this moment. Philly didn’t give up Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, or a first rounder in this trade. I can already hear Zach Lowe on his forthcoming podcast episode breaking down this trade: “When you can get Jimmy Butler for Robert Covington and Dario Saric you do it 100/100 times.”
I get it.
There is major risk here and I’m not even talking about the idea this could be a rental. I’m willing to talk about this under the assumption Butler stays, because 1. all reporting says it’s basically a done deal and 2. it’s pretty clear from the Rachel Nichols interview that Butler wants to get paid and no one can out bid the 6ers.
The risk of the Jimmy Butler trade is three-pronged.
The two sides might find a middle ground short of the full $190 million. The deal could be reported as $190 million but have non-guaranteed money tacked on at the end. Regardless, that contract does not project to age well.
When Butler is introduced opening night 2019 in the first year of his new max contract, he will be 30 years old. In Butler’s prior seven seasons, only twice has he played 76+ games. He is 67 or under in the other five. He has spent most of his career getting run into the ground under Thibs. Butler has an injury history and plenty of miles on his body.
There is also the opportunity cost for the 6ers here. Butler’s cap hold will be north of $30 million before his new deal kicks in. Prior to all this, Philadelphia was looking at enough cap space for a max contract to do something like, I dunno, sign Jimmy Butler outright. Now they’re looking at $18 million in space if they’re willing to waive every cap hold except for T.J. McConnell. This would mean the end of J.J. Redick in Philly.
Speaking of the end of Redick..
Philly just shipped out two of its four best shooters to get Butler. If Redick leaves next summer the 6ers are down a lot of shooting from their 2018 playoff roster. It’s possible they find a solution with Redick, or use their space to find other shooters, but right now it’s looking dicey.
A roster where Simmons and Fultz are key future components needs as much shooting as possible. Butler and Embiid have range, but what, the 6ers are going to be the Wolves East now and have Butler and their center as the best three-point shooters on the roster?
Also, Butler isn’t exactly the easiest guy to get along with. Fultz is likely dealing with confidence issues in his shot right now, so how much is it going to help when Butler tells him every day in practice that he’s garbage? Same goes for Simmons without as bad of confidence issues.
And is anyone reasonably expecting the Butler-Embiid dynamic to have no combustibility factor? I won’t say it’s definite they will hate each other, it’s not. But for the closest thing we have now to Kobe Bryant in terms of someone literally hating their teammates if they’re not trying 200%, 100% of the time, I feel like Jimmy just maybe possibly might not like Embiid’s oversized court jester personality.
I mean, legendary NBA Twitter follow Rob Perez just tweeted this yesterday:
ok so with the NBA saying they're going to televise the all-star draft we all need to form an alliance and make sure we vote for only the 2 captains (1 East/1 West) who will turn it into a roast
let's figure this out right now, who we rolling with? gotta be Embiid/Butler, right?
— 🏊🏽♂️Synchrowob🏊🏽♂️ (@WorldWideWob) November 9, 2018
THEY’RE ON THE SAME TEAM NOW.
The 6ers expedited their competitive curve because, uh, they felt like it? Why now? This team is built to be competitive for years. The Embiid-Simmons-Fultz core is young. Covington was on one of the best contracts in the league. They have all of their own picks and that juicy Miami pick in 2021. The 29 year old Jimmy Butler doesn’t fit this timeline.
Kawhi might leave. Horford might age and Kyrie might break. The Bucks might lose Middleton in free agency due to years of mismanagement, which might trigger a Giannis exit.
Philadelphia made the decision to go all in on the immediate aftermath of LeBron leaving the East. Sure, winning the conference is awesome, and conference titles don’t grow on trees. They mean a lot. You’re still probably not going to beat Toronto, and you’re less likely going to beat Golden State.
The Kawhi trade made sense for the Raptors because they had already reached their ceiling with DeRozan. The Thunder had no path to getting better without the Paul George trade. We hadn’t seen the best of the 6ers yet.
It seems like Philly saw Paul George stay in OKC and how well the Raptors are already doing, and got extremely nervous about landing a max player in 2019. If that’s the case then this was a reactionary trade triggered by fear. Never a fan of that.