From the messy coaching job to his teammates’ poor performance—Jimmy Butler has all the reasons to get out of Minnesota and lead his own team
By Klyde Manansala | Photo from Instagram
Just as we thought we’re already on the brink of the NBA’s offseason madness, Jimmy Butler steps into the limelight at the very last minute after demanding a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves last week.
There are a lot of questions revolving around the franchise of Minnesota. When Butler was traded to the Wolves last year, the team noted that they’re opting for a change with Butler installed as the alpha of its young core. And the 29-year old lived up to his role, bringing the Wolves back into the playoffs stage last season after being perennial losers for 14 years.
It was a grand moment for the rebuilding franchise. Butler’s arrival changed the team’s identity as he carried most of the load after performing at MVP level for the Wolves. He was there as the Butler we’ve seen ascend with the Chicago Bulls—or maybe even better: getting buckets, defending, crashing the boards, and creating shots for his teammates.
Before we cap off the offseason, Butler is set to bring change for Minnesota once again, only this time, it’s the type that could potentially rescind their future that once shone so brightly. Butler wants out. And the biggest question is, how did they arrive in this situation?
Thibs’ Mismanagement of Player Rotation
The Wolves concluded their 2017-18 regular season on a light note—in terms of metrics, mind you—after finishing with a winning 47-35 record. But even with the wins they’ve accumulated, reports say that there is a budding strife in the team chemistry, from players up to their head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Let’s start with the most obvious thing we have observed with the Wolves: Thibs’ poor management of player rotation. The Wolves had four guys listed in the top 10 players logged for most minutes last season, just enough reason to believe how strict Thibs was with his tight player rotation. This alone justifies speculations that other players weren’t happy about the limited minutes they’re getting. Thibs’ mismanagement of utilizing the young roster he had was the main root of the dysfunctional team chemistry of the Timberwolves and the lack of internal player development.
Karl Anthony-Towns’ Limited Ball Touches
Towns’ inability to play efficient defense has become a major concern for the Wolves. But more than this, there was a larger thing that was worth questioning: The rarity of the ball touches Towns was getting. As stated, Thibs uses a tight rotation, and with Towns serving as the best big man, he had to play heavy minutes. Although the young star has defensive lapses, he recuperates from it with the effort of running down the floor throughout the whole game.
But here comes the crazy part: There was one game last season in which Towns played for 38 minutes but only managed to take six shots. Towns averaged just 6.1 touches in the paint last season, proving that he’s rarely involved in the Wolves’ offensive scheme. And it simply becomes a problem for Towns and his team.
When you’re exerting effort coast-to-coast just to establish a defensive presence underneath the basket or try to score off transition, and you hardly get hold of the ball, a typical center is likely to get uncommitted in both ends eventually. Running a 94-feet court is exhausting, but not getting rewarded for that effort is even more grueling.
“Butler used the “trade Wiggins or watch me leave” card, a tough call Minnesota had to make
Butler Is Not Happy Playing with Andrew Wiggins
Last summer, 22-year-old Andrew Wiggins signed a $146.5 million extension with the Wolves. When an NBA player is paid hundreds of millions, he’s got to deliver. The case with Wiggins was different. Instead of improving, the wing player regressed his stats and overall efficiency—the lone reason why Butler opened up about his “uncertainty” about playing with Wiggins because of “his work ethic and his approach on the defensive end of the floor.”
Bringing Butler in was supposed to help the struggling first overall draft pick to develop his true potential as a lethal scorer. But instead of elevating his game to the next level, Butler saw little help from Wiggins in the post-season. His scoring average dropped from a career-high 23.6 to just 17.7 points per game and his efficiency rating dropped from 16.5 to 13.0, a below-average rating for a wing player.
While Butler was quick to make personal career decisions, realizing that Wiggins has a long-term contract with the Wolves and playing alongside the young star for four more years is the last thing he wants to happen. Butler used the “trade Wiggins or watch me leave” card, a tough call Minnesota had to make.
But all these dramas won’t be lingering now that Butler has expressed his preferred destinations (New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Los Angeles Clippers). Team owner Glen Taylor has also spread word across the league that they’re open to any inquiries about the veteran, and among the teams that are strongly pursuing him are Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Philadelphia 76ers. It’s only a matter of time until we see Butler donning a new uniform before the most-awaited season starts.