The Jimmy Butler saga is finally, mercifully over. The Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly came to terms on a trade sending him to the Philadelphia 76ers. So, what does this mean for the Los Angeles Lakers?
Well, for starters, he’s finally out of the west. Even while holding out of games this season, Butler made a point of playing against the Lakers. Makes sense given the spotlight that comes with playing against LeBron James and this franchise, but it was definitely a tactic on his part to continue to remind teams how valuable he is.
When Butler initially demanded a trade and listed Los Angeles as a city he’d like to play in, the thinking was that he wanted to force himself to the Lakers. That wound up not being the case, but that hasn’t stopped people from turning on the trade machine to see what the foundation of a deal might look like. Now that Butler is in Philadelphia, that speculation can finally stop — until the next star becomes disgruntled.
This point needs making, though: The Lakers were never going to include Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram in a Butler trade. That simply was never on the table. Get as frustrated as you want; that was the right line of thinking.
Butler going to Philadelphia also means one fewer suitor for Kawhi Leonard this summer.
Unless things really go terribly over the next few months, it’s hard to see Philadelphia changing course and looking to sign Leonard instead of the all-star small forward they just traded for. Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office still have their work cut out for them if they actually want to convince Leonard to sign in free agency, but one fewer team to worry about is a good thing.
Most people will immediately make the point that this is one fewer superstar in the west, but the situation was so toxic in Minnesota that this actually might be addition by subtraction — especially if Karl-Anthony Towns can live up to his prodigious potential. Tom Thibodeau made a point of staying competitive and got back two very solid role players.
If he actually adjusts and develops a system around Towns that utilizes their new additions, Minnesota can still have a very competitive team. They might not have the same ceiling as they did with Butler, but they’re probably very much still in the playoff picture in the west.
Nothing actually changes for the Lakers, though. Sure, Butler might have symbolized some kind of golden parachute if things really didn’t go well to some, but he was never a realistic option for the Lakers. They still have to move forward and figure things out in a Western Conference that remains very tough.
The Lakers’ long-term focus has always been on this summer. That remains the case even now that Butler is in Philly. Everyone involved either directly or not can finally move forward.