Jimmy Butler to Minnesota? Thibs could actually make it work

Jimmy Butler to Minnesota? Thibs could actually make it work
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau would love to have Jimmy Butler back on his bench this season. (NBA Images)

In what might be the most unsurprising NBA trade rumor ever, new Timberwolves coach/GM/president/hall monitor/generalissimo Tom Thibodeau is apparently interested in making a trade to bring Jimmy Butler to the Twin Cities.

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Marc Stein first broke the story on Twitter:

It didn’t take long for Darren Wolfson to point out the obvious:

The AW Wolfson references is Andrew Wiggins, the #1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

The question, obviously, is “how much would Thibs give up in order to land the perfect player for the way he coaches”?

Obviously – and this cannot possibly be overstated – the deal starts with Wiggins and the #5 pick. Jimmy Butler is an All-Star, and one of the best two-way players in the entire NBA. And he is under contract for another three years at a bargain price. You don’t give up a player like that without getting at least two quality prospects in return – and possibly a little more, depending on the quality of the prospects.

Let’s start with Stein’s report, and look at the #5 pick in this month’s draft. Rumor has it that the Bulls are completely enamored with Providence PG Kris Dunn, and these two sentences from his Draft Express profile explain why that would be the case:

It takes little more than a few seconds of watching Dunn play before you realize why he has a bright future in the NBA. Dunn has an exceptional physical profile for a point guard in today’s NBA, standing 6’4” in shoes, with a terrific frame, a long 6’9” wingspan, and elite quickness and leaping ability that place him in rarefied air by even NBA standards.

DX’s draft scouting video provides more insight into why the Bulls would be highly interested in Dunn:

Obviously, the odds are highly stacked against Dunn (or anyone else the Bulls would pick at #5) making an All-Star Game and being named All-Defense by age 25 like Jimmy Butler did. In fact, it’s almost certain that Dunn will never reach the levels of achievement that Jimmy Butler has, which is why an offer of #5 for Butler straight-up would be met with uncontrollable laughter on the Bulls end.

Andrew Wiggins, on the other hand, is a young player with true superstar potential. The 21-year-old former Rookie Of The Year is an outstanding athlete with the potential to match Jimmy Butler on the defensive end of the floor. His quickness and length allow him to switch any perimeter pick-and-roll, a huge staple of Jim Boylen’s defensive system. And his foot speed should allow him to develop into a lockdown defender as he progresses.

That being said, Wiggins has the potential to develop into an elite offensive player who can explode and finish at the rim with the best in the league. He should become an absolute monster on the fast break, both as a finisher and as a ball-handler.

His offensive highlights from last season:

Wiggins does have plenty of downside, unfortunately – he is a poor rebounder for his height, his 3-point shooting leaves plenty to be desired (he shot a lower percentage last season than he did as a rookie), and his ball-handling is currently average at best.

Contrary to the beliefs of Wolves’ fans – who seem to think that #5 for Butler is a fair deal – Wiggins and #5 very likely won’t be enough to get the deal done. The Bulls are dealing from a position of strength here, as Thibs horribly wants to make the playoffs this season just to prove what a great coach he is. Which means that he’ll give up a hell of a lot in order to land an All-Star to team with Karl-Anthony Towns.

A “sweetener”, as Jerry Krause used to call it. In this case, either Gorgui Dieng or Shabazz Muhammad.

If Thibs doesn’t think Butler is worth it, let’s see him try to make the playoffs with a bunch of 21-year-olds next season. The Bulls will be more than happy to continue to build around Jimmy Butler.


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  • While I might agree with you that Wiggins and #5 is the starting point for a deal, my sense is that the Bulls would jump at that deal and Minny would have a revolt on their hands if they didn't laugh at us for suggesting it. Wiggins kind of fell off the radar in his second season despite still putting up some decent numbers. Don't follow Minny enough to know how he progressed or if he regressed this past year.

    Would the pick plus LaVine and Giorgi D be enough, even if we could have drafted both those guys ourselves.

  • I don't follow them that closely either, while Wiggins is certainly the bigger name, LaVine actually had a higher TS% last season, and he's a much better 3pt shooter than Wiggins (.389 to .300 last season). LaVine also plays quite a bit of PG, which is a more important position in today' NBA.

    If you're taking Dunn at #5, you've given yourself a backcourt of 2 true combo guards who both have great length, elite quickness, and unbelievable athleticism.

    LeVine started 33 games last season, and in those games he averaged 17.3 points in 34.3 minutes with a .593 TS%, hitting 44.4% of his 3's on over 5 attempts per game. That is very damn impressive, even for a bad team. Great shooting is great shooting, if he can play defense with that athleticism and shooting, he might just be the next Klay Thompson.

    I don't know that Dieng is any better than Felicio, he's certainly more proven and experienced. If him, Dunn and LaVine can give you good to great defense, you can get by with playing both McD and Niko and really space the floor on offense and have great shooting at all 4 non-center positions.

    If you can get an athletic SF at 14, maybe 5/LaVine/Dieng is enough? You'd struggle to make the playoffs this season, but as long as you can still move Rose and give Dunn and LaVine a year of development, you might be able to land a good FA or two in 2017.

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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