During the NBA Draft on Thursday, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls completed the biggest trade of the offseason. After months of rumors, Chicago shipped three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler and the 16th overall pick (Justin Patton) to Minnesota in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the 7th overall pick (Lauri Markkanen). This blockbuster deal reunites Butler with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, and most analysts have unequivocally agreed that Minnesota fleeced Chicago.
If this was the best offer the Chicago Bulls got for Jimmy Butler, I would have kept him. I'm stunned no other team was able to beat it.
— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) June 22, 2017
The 27-year old Butler is still under contract for two more seasons and is viewed as arguably one of the top ten to fifteen players in the league. Last season Butler averaged 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while playing stifling defense and providing veteran leadership. The Bulls were clearly looking to rebuild their roster and start from scratch, but this deal doesn’t return adequate value for a star player in their prime.
Before this deal was finalized, the Bulls and Timberwolves were both listed as 100/1 longshots to win the 2017-18 NBA championship at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. Following Thursday’s trade, the Bulls dropped from 100/1 to 500/1 while the Timberwolves improved from 100/1 to 60/1.
Minnesota has built an impressive young core, highlighted by a pair of number one overall draft picks: Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Despite their wealth of talented prospects, the Timberwolves have struggled over the past few seasons — especially on the defensive side of the ball. Last season Minnesota finished with a 31-51 record and failed to make the playoffs for their 13th consecutive season. With the addition of a bonafide superstar and the expected growth of their young talent, oddsmakers are optimistic about Minnesota’s prospects next year.
On Saturday, the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook listed the Timberwolves at -260 to make the playoffs and +220 to miss the playoffs. After accounting for the juice, that translates to a 69.8% implied probability that Minnesota will end their playoff drought.
The Timberwolves finished nine games out of the playoffs last season, but Jimmy Butler’s value can’t be overstated. Last season Butler was worth roughly 2-3 points to the spread which put him on par with the likes of Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan and new teammate Karl-Anthony Towns. However, Butler’s value to the spread will likely decrease next season as the talent surrounding him improves.
It will also be interesting to see how these odds fluctuate over the next few weeks, as there’s a lot of talent available via free agency and trade. Chris Paul, Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Otto Porter, Serge Ibaka and Danilo Gallinari are among the most coveted players in this year’s free agent class, and their ultimate destinations will have a major impact on the futures market. The Clippers were the four-seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, but they could quickly plummet if they lose Paul and/or Griffin in free agency.
The Jazz were the five-seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, but losing Gordon Hayward would be a devastating blow. If either of these teams falter, the Wolves could easily slip into the postseason.
For months there have been rumors that the Timberwolves have been looking to deal point guard Ricky Rubio, who will make $14 million next season. Even if Minnesota can’t trade Rubio, they should have significant cap room (potentially more than $20 million) to make a run at second-tier free agents.
Cap space for Minnesota will range from $18-22m. T'wolves have until June 30 to guarantee Jordan Hill $4m contract.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 23, 2017
It’s tough to imagine anybody unseating the Warriors in the Western Conference, but the Timberwolves have assembled an excellent young core that could develop into a championship contender down the line.
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