Reports: Timberwolves trade Jimmy Butler to Sixers

Yahoo Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers have struck a blockbuster deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves to trade for disgruntled All-Star forward Jimmy Butler, according to multiple reports Saturday afternoon.

In return, Philadelphia will send forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric to Minnesota, according to The Athletic and ESPN.

Jimmy Butler will be a Philadelphia 76er in short order, according to reports. (Getty)
Jimmy Butler will be a Philadelphia 76er in short order, according to reports. (Getty)

The full trade, per reports: The Sixers get Butler and injured second-year center Justin Patton in exchange for Saric, Covington, unwanted veteran Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick.

Does the deal make sense for the Sixers?

The Sixers, ever since this past summer, have been looking for a third major piece. They had, as head coach Brett Brown said, been “star-hunting.” But they struck out in free agency this past summer, and very well could have struck out in 2019 as well. So they increasingly felt as if they had to make their move via trade. And they had the assets. So they pounced.

Fans will feel uneasy about parting with Covington, one of the best wing defenders in the league, on a team-friendly contract, and Saric, a unique, multi-talented forward. But both are limited. Butler can do most of what Covington excels at just as well, and provides a massive upgrade on the offensive end.

For the deal to work out for the Sixers, though, two things will have to happen. One, they’ll have to find role players who can mitigate the losses of Saric and Covington – and specifically their shooting. That won’t be easy to do. But it’s not impossible, either. The Sixers still have draft picks to float in trade negotiations; a $4.5 million room mid-level exception and one free roster spot this year; and significant cap room next summer.

Secondly, and more importantly, Butler will have to work out. He’ll have to mesh with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. He’ll have to accept being the second- or third-most important player on a team built around youngsters.

There’s no guarantee he will, especially after clashing with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota. If friction develops between him, Embiid and Simmons – three starkly different personalities – there’ll be trouble.

The deal boosts Philly in the short-term, but is really a medium-term play. It’s an effort to compete with Boston, Toronto, Milwaukee and perhaps others not only this year, but over the next five years, give or take a few. Butler must be an integral part of that medium-term.

Butler and Sixers reportedly planning long-term partnership

On that note, the most important aspect of the trade might be that the Sixers and Butler reportedly expect to agree to a contract that will keep Butler in Philadelphia beyond this year:

That’s the key. If Butler stays, and if he complements Philly’s young stars well, it’s a big win for the Sixers. But those are big “ifs”.

Does the deal make sense for the Timberwolves?

The Wolves had to deal Butler. Wither every passing day, the situation became more untenable. With every passing day, he was losing value. Had Minnesota refused to send him elsewhere, he would have left on his own this upcoming offseason and yielded the Wolves nothing in return.

But Minnesota, with owner Glen Taylor, head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden all involved in discussions, appears to have played its cards right. The Wolves didn’t jump at questionable offers from the Miami Heat or Houston Rockets. Instead, they held out for Philly, and found a balance between the present and future to appease both Thibodeau and more forward-thinking members of the front office.

Covington is 27, and under contract (at less than $13 million per year) through 2021-22. Saric is 24, with two years (including the current one) remaining on his rookie deal. Both fit on the same timeline as Towns, the franchise centerpiece, and Wiggins. (Bayless is a salary dump; the second-round pick is of little value.)

Whether Covington and Saric are good fits next to Towns and Wiggins remains to be seen. However, they will certainly be better fits off the court, where locker-room toxicity levels have suddenly subsided.

Minnesota had become dysfunctional

Just 12 hours before the terms of the trade were agreed to, Butler had once again bad-mouthed the Wolves. “That s— has to stop,” he said of his 41-minute workload in a loss to the Sacramento Kings. “We’ve got f—ing 14 other guys.”

The Wolves were 4-9. There had been front-office dysfunction ever since Butler’s trade request, with Taylor and Thibodeau at various points disagreeing over the franchise’s approach to the Butler situation. Thibodeau reportedly relented, finally, after the Kings loss, the team’s fifth in a row. The very public saga, he decided, had to end before further damage was done.

The trade will reportedly be finalized on Monday on a call with the league office. And both sides will probably feel good about it.

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Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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