As the early picks came off the board, the Minnesota Timberwolves were already busy, dealing the No. 7 pick — packaged with Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn — to the Chicago Bulls get Jimmy Butler along with the 16th pick.
This makes the Wolves an interesting playoff spot contender along with what it says about the Wolves mentality. Butler is coming off a year of averaging 23.9 points, 5.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game at the shooting guard position. While he is an offensive threat who can hit in isolation from almost anywhere on the court, the big win for the Wolves is his defensive game.
Minnesota gave up 109.1 points per 100 possessions (26th in the league) last season. That mark got worse throughout the season, falling to an abysmal 116.4 in April. With Butler in the lineup, the Wolves have a defensive player they can place on any player, positions 1-4. He can lock down fast players with his explosive edge and can size up bigger players with his 6-foot-7 frame and 7-foot wingspan. The Wolves’ offensive rating per 100 possessions was ranked 10th last season with 108.1 points; now the defense behind them has a leader.
Pairing Butler with Ricky Rubio, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins not only frees Butler on offense because of all the surrounding talent, but also eases the burden on the defense for the rest of the team. Butler on the squad means that they do not need to double the opposing team’s best player, letting the rest of the unit match up better against the second and third players on the other roster.
Giving up two young talents and a top-10 pick in maybe the draft of the decade shows the Wolves’ dedication to winning now — with this roster. Butler is 27, making him the oldest starter on the team by far. These guys can win together and win for years. This move makes s statement to the fans that they are confident they are a playoff team that is out to stir up trouble. The Wolves have finally given Tom Thibodeau the defensive piece he needed to pair with a great offense along with having two guys, Wiggins and Butler, who can take the game-winning shot.