Butler also promised 76ers fans they’ll get “hard playing” from him. He had questioned the will to win and general effort of a couple of his high-profile former Timberwolves teammates, namely Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, which contributed greatly to his dissatisfaction with being on the team. After fielding his trade demand in September, Minnesota held onto an unhappy Butler as it weighed offers before finally agreeing to a deal with the Sixers.
In exchange for Butler and center Justin Patton — who went with Butler in the 2017 trade that sent them from the Bulls to the Timberwolves — Minnesota received Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round draft pick. Philadelphia could miss the depth and shooting skills those three provided but the trade looks like a win for the Sixers, with the team getting a legitimate NBA star who has the potential to form a title-contending core with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
“We have a championship window that’s centered around the continued progression of our talented young core, as well as our ability to add elite players who elevate our program,” 76ers General Manager Elton Brand said in a statement. “In Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, we have two of the NBA’s top 20 players. Now, we’ve added a third top 20 player in Jimmy Butler, who is one of the NBA’s very best on both ends of the floor. This move further strengthens our pursuit of a championship and gives us a formidable combination to take on the league’s top teams.”
Claiming that Butler “mirrors the spirit of Philadelphia,” 76ers Coach Brett Brown said of Butler (via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps), “There’s a toughness he plays with. That’s who he is.”
According to reports, Timberwolves' coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau had been hesitant to deal Butler for anything less than top dollar, hoping to ride the four-time all-star to a second straight playoff appearance while convincing him to sign a contract extension. Early in the season, Thibodeau was reported to have passed on a package from the Heat featuring up-and-coming swingman Josh Richardson, but he eventually resigned himself to the necessity of a trade as Butler continued to push for one amid strong evidence that the situation was a burden on the struggling Timberwolves.
According to the Athletic, the Pelicans offered a package that included forward Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick, while the Rockets dangled two first-rounders, plus shooting guard Eric Gordon and forward Nene. ESPN reported that by the time Thibodeau was ready to deal, the Heat had taken Richardson off the table and the Wizards “wouldn’t offer guard Bradley Beal,” per sources.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski claimed that Brand initially was only willing to offer either Saric or Covington but began to feel his own urgency to make a move after the Sixers started the season slowly. The team was said to be confident it can lock up Butler on an extension this summer, with an NBA executive telling Wojnarowski that the 29-year-old player has plenty of reason to want to make things work in Philadelphia, at least for this season.
“He has to be on his best behavior [in Philly], and he knows it,” the executive said of Butler. “If he screws up that team, that’ll be three straight teams. Someone will sign him in free agency, but he won’t get all that he’s asking for.”
“I’m ready to get started,” Butler said Monday. “We got a little ways to go, we got some things to figure out. But all-in-all, I look forward to it.”
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