If there remained any doubt that the Philadelphia 76ers had reached the end of “The Process,” it was likely dispelled Saturday afternoon in the form of a blockbuster deal.
The Sixers have agreed to a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves that will net them all-star guard Jimmy Butler in exchange for forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric, guard Jerryd Bayless and a 2020 second-round draft pick, according to multiple reports.
Minnesota also will send forward Justin Patton to Philadelphia.
The deal will mark the end of Butler’s rocky tenure with the Timberwolves. Minnesota acquired Butler in a June 2017 trade with the Chicago Bulls, and he averaged 22.2 points per game last season while helping Minnesota secure its first playoff spot since 2005. But in the offseason, Butler voiced frustration over the status of his contract and reportedly turned down a four-year, $110 million extension offer in July. As the preseason neared, Butler demanded a trade and tension mounted between Butler, Coach Tom Thibodeau — who also oversees the team’s basketball operations — and management, as well as with teammates. That continued into the season, although Butler’s on-court performance did not seem to suffer. The four-time all-star exits Minnesota averaging 21.3 points in 10 games.
Butler’s expected move to Philadelphia makes the Sixers an increasingly popular pick to reach the conference finals along with the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. Butler moves from playing alongside two past No. 1 overall picks in center Karl Anthony Towns and guard/forward Andrew Wiggins to center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, both high lottery picks themselves. The deal is expected to be finalized Monday, with Butler’s likely debut on Wednesday against the Magic.
Philadelphia traded two starters in Covington and Saric, and sacrificed some solid three-point shooting in doing so. Butler only shoots the three at 34 percent for his career, but is hitting at a more prolific rate from long range this season, 37.8 percent.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe, the Sixers and Butler plan to get to work on a potential long term contract, but can’t formally enter into negotiations until Butler opts out of the final year on his current deal after the season. Butler is in the fourth year of a five-year, $92-million contract signed with Chicago in 2015. He’s set to make $18.7 million this season and, if he chooses not to opt out, $19.8 million next season.
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