You must have heard the revealing conversation between Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler and ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in the aftermath of Butler’s animated training session on his return to the team. Due to intense trade talks between Minnesota and virtually half the league involving Butler, the former Chicago Bulls man was absent from the team through preseason games.
However, with the last realistic trade scenario with Miami Heat completely broken down, Butler had little choice than to return to the team. He did return and per the reports and first hand statements from the man himself, Butler went ballistic at anybody connected to his situation.
He directed his frustrations with the team’s top hierarchy at General Manager Scott Lyden and for those irked feelings against the playing unit; they were directed at Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Minnesota’s talented duo represents the long term future of Timberwolves after the pair nailed down five year extensions to their respective contracts.
Both players form part of the next generation of NBA stars but have had little success taking Minnesota to the next level before Butler’s arrival which ended Minnesota’s long wait for a playoffs series.
These words, “Who’s the most talented player on our team? KAT. Who’s the most god-gifted player on our team? Wigs. Wigs got the longest arms, the biggest hands, can jump the highest, can run the fastest.”
“But like who plays the hardest? Me. I play hard” sum Butler’s feelings towards the young duo he believes are soft. Butler wants out of Minnesota really bad to the extent he opined his fractious relationship with the team has little to do with money on television. That means interested teams still have a shot at making a trade for him; Miami Heat have indicated another trade push with Minnesota.
A top contender to land Butler, Houston Rockets fell out with Minnesota’s demand of Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker for Butler. After losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah Moute and replacing them with Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss and James Ennis, Houston still looks short at least on paper against Golden State Warriors. While the team retains much of its firepower after the moves it doesn’t retain much on the defensive end which makes a deal for Butler hard to ignore. The 29 year old is a four time NBA All Defense Team member and four time All Star who delivers most on the biggest stages. Meshing his talent with Chris Paul, James Harden and Carmelo gives Houston a dream team to battle defending champions Golden State.
However, Rockets and Houston are a bad mix considering Butler doesn’t enjoy sharing the spotlight with another who falls short of his maniacal demanding ways of preparation and game play. It happened in Chicago with Derrick Rose, it is happening now in Minnesota with Wiggins and Towns and it is likely to happen in Houston with Carmelo and Chriss.
That aside, Butler loves to have the ball in his hands and in Houston that will be a challenge with Harden and Chris Paul dominating the ball on every possession. It was a challenge Rockets scaled by seamlessly fusing Paul and Harden’s styles to a game short of making the NBA Finals. Carmelo loves to have the ball in his hands too but will have to do that in the second unit but expecting a third ball dominant Guard in the starting unit will be stretching the debate to breaking point.
Gordon thrives on offense, Tucker thrives on defense but Butler thrives on both. However, Gordon and Tucker easily play off the ball and fit Mike D’Antoni’s system. Butler on the other hand, will play as the third string option behind Paul and Harden which is sure to irk the very proud Butler and cause friction.As great as Rockets unit looks with Butler on board, letting Gordon and Tucker go robs Houston off its overall depth.
Having enough depth was the key behind the team’s deep run last season as it spared Chris Paul and main act James Harden from playing heavy minutes. With Brandon Knight, plans are set in stone to give Paul further rest as a means to have him fresher than before during the playoffs. His absence was crucial in Warriors march to its third title in four years as Paul missed the final two games with injury. Taking out Gordon puts Anthony up as Houston’s sole offensive man on the wings while taking away Houston’s second best defender Tucker.
Just as Butler said, his reasons for a trade go beyond money but rather factors mentioned above which are not tenable in Houston making this a bad mix.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter