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How The Jimmy Butler Trade Impacts The Timberwolves And 76ers


Jimmy Butler's wish finally got granted.

The Minnesota Timberwolves shipped the disgruntled shooting guard along with big center Justin Patton to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. In return, the Timberwolves receive Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless along with a 2022 second-round draft pick. The trade will not become official until approved by the NBA on Monday. The trade appears to benefit both teams. Philadelphia gets one of the best two-way wings in the NBA with the addition of Butler. Butler -- who immediately becomes the best player that Joel Embiid has played with during his tenure with the 76ers -- gives the Sixers a player who can score on all three levels as well create his own for the first time in years. Butler is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, although the 76ers reportedly plan to re-sign him. Patton has only appeared in one NBA game since being selected with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2017 draft. The 7-footer is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery for a broken foot in mid- September.

The Wolves, in the meanwhile, add two young players to their core. With the addition of Covington and Saric, Minnesota now has nine players 27 years-old and younger on its roster. Covington and Saric are both versatile players who can light up the scoreboard when they get rolling.  Both players are under team control for the next few seasons. Let's look at how the trade affects both teams from a fantasy perspective.

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The Big Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns

While I believe the trade ultimately benefits both teams, the Timberwolves players are the biggest winners from a fantasy perspective. Towns and Wiggins are the biggest winners.

Four of Towns' six most productive games this year have come in the games when Butler sat out (three) or dished out a season-high eight assists (vs. the Kings). Not coincidentally, the 7-footer recorded four of his five usage rates in those games. This includes a season-high 31.1 usage percentage against the Kings, giving him a usage rate above 30 percent for the second time in three games.

In 2016-17, the year prior to Butler, Towns had his best season. That year, Towns contributed 25.1 points as he shot 54.5 percent from the field (18.0 shots). His usage rate was 27.0 percent and PIE was 17.0.

Wiggins PIE rating or usage has not changed as dramatically as Towns in the games that Butler has missed, but he also should benefit from Butler's departure. In the two years before Butler got to Minnesota, he posted an average PIE rating of around 9.5 and usage rates of 27 percent.

The top reason I believe this is that both Towns and Wiggins will see an increase in their usage with Butler out of town. But more importantly, Saric and Covington will give those two the room that they need to operate. Towns is at his best when he is in the paint, although he does have a soft touch from 15 feet as well and, of course, has shown an ability to knock down a few three-pointers. Saric is an excellent passer as well.

With Saric and Covington having proven to be lethal from beyond the arc in the past, it will give Towns more time to go one-on-one against his opponent, because if they leave either one open they will knock the shot down. The same thing goes if they double Towns, he will kick the ball out. Saric and Covington are both excellent off-the-catch shooters. Saric knocked two three-pointers a game last season at a clip of 39.6 percent while Covington nailed 2.5 triples a contest at a 36.9 percent clip.

The same theory goes for Wiggins. The difference being is that hopefully, the spacing that Saric and Covington provide will allow Wiggins to go back to what he did best, which is slashing to the basket. Not to take away from the improvements that Wiggins made on his range, but what made him such a tantalizing prospect several years ago was his athleticism and ability to score.

Rose and Teague also should benefit as they will have the ball in their hands more often, although not necessarily to just score. Saric and Covington should also see a healthy workload. Fantasy owners should take a wait and see approach on Gibson to see how exactly he fits in. Gibson and Saric could end up complimenting each other extremely well, whether they paired as forwards on the floor or working together in a small-ball lineup with Gibson at center and Saric at power forward. Obviously, Gibson and Saric could end up splitting time at the 4.  Gorgui DiengAnthony Tolliver and Tyus Jones are the most obvious losers in the trade from Wolves perspective.

Butler should continue to do what he does in Philly. Embiid also should continue to thrive. The biggest concern is Simmons as he likely won't have the ball in his hands as much and since he is not a threat from the perimeter, it is not like he can space out and spot up while Butler creates off the dribble. If Redick doesn't lose too much playing time to Butler, he should be just as productive as before.

Simmons could also see his number of assists go down as Saric and Covington received the second and fourth most passes, respectively, from him this season. Saric and Covington accounted for 43.5 percent of Simmons  7.8 dimes a game.

Fultz and Shamet are the two players most likely to see their fantasy numbers plummet. In the meantime, Butler's arrival could make Chandler and Muscala relevant in deep fantasy leagues.

 

Current Outlooks: Philadelphia 76ers

Jimmy Butler

Butler will likely have a similar role in Philadelphia that he did in Minnesota, where he produced 24.0 points along with 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per 40 minutes. His usage percentage was about 23 percent in his 69 games with the Timberwolves.

The most notable difference between this year and years in the past is that 29-year-old is more efficient. His 52.6 percent effective shooting percentage is a career-best as he is shooting and draining more three-pointers than he ever has. He is currently averaging 1.7 triples on 4.5 attempts for a 37.8 percent clip, which equates to 29.4 percent of his shot attempts coming from beyond the arc.

Butler is also posting a career-high 3.07 assist-to-turnover ratio. The eight-year vet has committed 1.4 turnovers a game, which is his lowest in four years. More importantly, he has cut his turnover rate down to 5.8 percent which is the best of his career.

Joel Embiid

Embiid is having an MVP type season. He is currently leading the NBA in double-doubles (13) and is in the top three in the league in scoring (27.7 points) and fantasy points (53.3). The 7-footer is currently accounting for 34 percent of the Sixers points as he has a usage of 31 percent.

The biggest difference between this year and in the past for the fourth-year pro is that he is seeing a career-high 35 minutes of playing time. As a result, he is taking more shots overall and he has had an opportunity to grab more rebounds. The biggest difference from this year compared to last season is that he has cut down his turnovers, which is allowing him to record a 1.14 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Ben Simmons

Despite still not being able to shoot outside the paint, Simmons has made subtle improvements in year two. The versatile 6-foot-10 Australian is tied for second in the league in double-doubles (11) and triple-doubles (two). He is also 24th in fantasy points (41.6).

Markelle Fultz

Fultz has really struggled shooting the ball in his 28 career games. While 6-foot-4 combo guard has started all 14 games this season, he is averaging 9.3 points along with 3.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 24 minutes. He is shooting 42.2 percent from the field, 30.8 percent from beyond the arc and 60.0% from the free throw line.

The second-year pro has played better since the calendar turned to November. Fultz tallied 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the field against the Grizzlies on November 10, marking his first double-figure scoring effort in five contests. He also had two rebounds, two blocks, one assist and one steal in 25 minutes. It was the best shooting game of his career.

Fultz, who has a usage rate of 19.1 percent, ranks in the top-50 among guards in rebounds and assists. He is also 64th in fantasy points at  22.3 points a game.

J.J. Redick

Redick is having an average year scoring the ball -- for him -- (22.4 points per 40 minutes) despite shooting and scoring the ball the least efficiently that he has in years. However, on a per game basis, his 17.2 points are a career-best as is his shots attempts (14.2) and usage rate (21.1). He is also making a career-high 2.9 triples a game on 8.4 attempts.

Redick -- No. 51 among guards in fantasy points -- has scored in double figures in each of his 14 appearances, including three games of 20 or more points.

Wilson Chandler

Chandler made his season debut on Nov. 3 after missing the first nine games of the season with a hamstring issue. He is still working his way back from the injury and as a result is unable to play back-to-back games. The 31-year-old combo forward contributed eight points and five rebounds in 16 minutes versus the Hornets on Friday, marking the second time in three appearances that he has managed 15 minutes of court time.

Mike Muscala

Muscala has missed the last three games with a broken nose. He is slated to be out until at least Nov. 13 when he is re-evaluated.

While the 6-foot-11 power forward is scoring and shooting at the highest efficiency level of his career, -- thanks in large part to him making a personal-best 1.3 trifectas a game --he has been inconsistent.  Muscala, who has scored in double-digits in three of his eight appearances this year, is averaging 7.3 points along with 3.8 rebounds in 20 minutes.

Landry Shamet

Shamet started November off strong, tallying double figures in each of the first four games of the month. He has scored just eight points in 62 minutes over his last two games as he has missed 16 of his last 19 shots, including 14 of 16 from beyond the arc. While he finished with only five points on 2-for-13 shooting the rookie point guard did dole out five assists as well as come up with two steals against the Grizzlies (Saturday).

 

Current Outlooks: Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns has been playing much better after getting off to a slow start. The 22-year-old has recorded five of his six double-doubles over the last seven games. He is coming off his best game of the season against Sacramento on Friday, where he scored 39 points and grabbed 19 caroms, both season highs. The fourth-year pro connected on 15 of 27 shot attempts overall against the Kings.

Since Oct. 29, Towns is averaging 23.0 points and 12.6 rebounds over that seven-game stretch. The 48.8 fantasy points that he has produced during this stretch is the eighth most in the league.

Andrew Wiggins

Wiggins has been playing better lately as well. Since returning to action on Oct. 29 -- after missing three games -- Wiggins is producing 18.0 points along with 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 three-pointers. He was unavailable against the Kings on Friday as a result of a right quad contusion.

Dario Saric

Saric got off to a slow start due to poor shooting and shot selection. But he started to turn things around over his last three appearances. The 6-foot-10 stretch-4 compiled 16.7 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 46.9 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc -- where he has averaged 2.7 treys -- during this period. Saric, who has scored a season-high 18 points in each of his last two games, is shooting 36.4 percent from the field and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc for the season -- both career-lows.

Robert Covington

Covington has regressed a little in each of the last two seasons. While he is currently shooting and scoring at an unprecedented level -- for him -- his stats are relatively on par with his past performances. Granted his scoring is down and his minutes are up a little.

More concerning, is that after scoring in double-figures in seven of his first nine appearances, the 27-year-old has only done so once in his last four games. Also, he is making just 1.2 three-pointers (28.6 percent) a game in November, which is down from the 3.0 triples (42.9 percent) a contest in October.

Taj Gibson

Gibson has been solid the whole season so far. While his usage rate and production has improved recently, the efficiency has not been quite as good since the calendar changed to November. Still, the 33-year-old power forward is averaging 12.0 points along with 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from beyond the arc in five games this month. Gibson recorded his first double-double of the campaign against the Lakers on November 7.

Josh Okogie

Okogie has started the last seven games with mixed results. After reaching double figures in each of the first three times the rookie was in the starting lineup, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard has tallied 19 points over the last four contests. This includes putting up a goose egg against the Lakers on Nov. 7.

Okogie is averaging 8.4 points, 4.7 rebounds while shooting 35.5 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from beyond the arc as a starter.

Jeff Teague

Teague has missed the seven games with a knee injury. He is currently listed as day-to-day. The 30-year-old point guard has really struggled with his shooting, compiling a career-low 35.9 shooting percentage from the field. He is also shooting just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc, which is the second worst percentage of his career. On a positive note, the 10th-year pro has cut down on his turnovers exponentially as his turnover ratio is a career-best 8.7 percent.

Derrick Rose

Rose is playing at his highest level since tearing his ACL during the playoffs in 2011-12. Rose leads the team in usage rate at 25.5 percent. The 30-year-old has tallied at least 21 points, four rebounds as well as four assists in four of his last five appearances.

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