Timberwolves Owner Glen Taylor Talks Butler Trade

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is more hands-on than many of his fellow NBA team owners, which was on display throughout the team’s recent saga with Jimmy Butler.

Reports early in the process indicated that some teams were contacting Taylor directly to discuss potential trades for Butler, since Minnesota’s management team of Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden seemed less inclined to make a move. When Butler was finally dealt over the weekend, a report suggested that the team owners on both sides were “heavily involved” in negotiations.

With that in mind, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic and Chris Hine of The Star Tribune each spoke to Taylor about the deal the Wolves ultimately made, getting the owner’s thoughts on the package Minnesota received from the Sixers and the drama leading up to that trade agreement.

Here are a few of the highlights from Taylor, via Krawcznyski’s interview unless otherwise noted:

On Tom Thibodeau’s future with the Timberwolves:

“Like most coaches, he’ll be measured on the success of the team. Not one game, but what we can do overall, or just the improvement. If we can see improvement every day, that would be a very positive thing. Those are his expectations and that would be mine too. … Now it’s the (looking toward the) future. We’re looking forward. He’s supposed to be a coach with veteran knowledge. Hopefully he can bring that experience to this group of players and we win a lot more than we lose.”

On how Thibodeau’s close relationship with Butler affected the situation:

“It was hard for the coach to see an end to this relationship. I think he felt responsible that he should work hard to try to get Jimmy to change his mind, to stay with us, to meet the goals that we all agreed upon and that was to have a successful year this year and he would coach it, Jimmy would help in the leadership needs of the team and get us deep in the playoffs. I don’t fault the coach at all for having those desires and hopes.

“But of course as you saw, that strung out the timetable because a lot of effort on his part was put into trying to work with Jimmy. It’s probably from my viewpoint as being a step away from it, I felt that this was probably not going to work out.”

On how Butler handled the situation:

“I certainly wished that he would follow what I would call his behavior of being a leader on the team and doing positive things in the locker room, doing positive things out on the floor. I know in a number of cases he did do that, and I appreciate that. But my expectations of Jimmy were quite high. When we had these disruptions, rightly or wrongly, it appeared to have affected the team in a negative way.”

On whether Butler’s trade request was impacting the Wolves’ play (via Hine):

“It just appeared that they weren’t working together as a team or as a unit the way that they should’ve. I can’t exactly answer why. The only thing that was different that we had was Jimmy’s position of leaving the team. Maybe that was affecting guys more than they even knew themselves.”

On the trade package the Wolves received:

“I think in this case we were able to do two things that are very important. No. 1, we brought in some guys that could help us immediately, and I think that’s important. Secondly, we don’t have to look at it as just this year. I think because of their age and because of their contracts we can look at them as some fellows that can help us into the future. And that to me is very important.”

Fantasy Hoops: Processing The Jimmy Butler Trade

“It is critical to be cycle aware in a talent-driven league. In a situation like yours at the Sixers, where a variety of circumstances left you near a trough in the cycle [and falling], amplifying this cycle became crucial. Today’s outcomes for every team are heavily impacted by decisions past [who to draft, sign, trade, hire, etc].

Jeff Bezos says that if Amazon has a good quarter it’s because of work they did three, four, five years ago—not because they did a good job that quarter.” 

Former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie wrote those words in his infamous 13-page manifesto, in which he expanded on the idea of having the longest view in the room. Hinkie discussed the moves the Warriors made to set up their dynasty, how Boston was able to land Kevin Garnett a decade ago by planning ahead, and how the Rockets and Spurs were able to bring James Harden and LaMarcus Aldridge to their respective Texas clubs.

This past weekend, the Sixers “ended” The Process by making their move for a star; the event was years in the making.

They found their missing piece by adding Jimmy Butler and trading away two of Hinkie’s gems in Robert Covington and Dario Saric. The deal signals the end of a long journey, one that sets the franchise up to become a true title contender. The path wasn’t easy. The games were borderline unwatchable at times, even for basketball purists, but Philadelphia finally has aligned its stars. The clock has begun to tick on the franchise’s new cycle.

It’s unlikely we see another Hinkie-esque rebuild, as I wrote during last year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. James Anderson likely will never again see his face displayed as large and as proudly as it was on the banners in the Wells Fargo Center during the team’s post-2014 trade deadline games. Questions such as, “Can JaKarr Sampson make it as a role player?” or “What’s the best way to build around Jahlil Okafor‘s game?” or “When will the Sixers’ first-round pick play?” are no longer ones Sixers fans need to worry about answering (except for that last question, which seemingly pops up every year).

The Sixers in a great position because of their times of tribulations. The team is even set up to add yet another piece this summer should they convince a top free agent to sign on the dotted line.

As for this season, we’ve got you covered on the impact this trade will have on the fantasy landscape. Here are the three big questions following the deal:

How Will The Sixers’ Big Three Look?

Gone are the days of random DNPs, as the trade to Philadelphia has likely cured Jimmy Butler of his “general soreness.” Butler owners can exhale.

The four-time All-Star certainly won’t average 40+ minutes per night, as he did over his last three games with the Timberwolves (man, Tom Thibodeau surely was squeezing every last bit of value out of Butler before dealing him away). Still, he was the 11th-best player in 9-cat leagues last season and he could easily sneak into the top 10, as he did during the 2016/17 campaign.

Butler’s presence doesn’t dramatically change the value of either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. Embiid displayed MVP-level game and usage during the team’s first 15 games. His ability to get to the line has been particularly remarkable, as he posted his third game with at least 20 free throws on Monday against the Heat.

Embiid entered Tuesday sitting seventh in the NBA in usage (30.9%) and second in the league in scoring (28.2 points per game) behind only Stephen Curry. Perhaps those figures slightly decline with Butler in the fold. Regardless, Embiid remains a top-10 option.

Simmons should still pepper nearly all the categories on a nightly basis. He’s a top-25 option the rest of the way, though he should be valued below Butler in all formats.

Will A New Fantasy Option Rise From The Ashes Of The Process?

With Philadelphia trading away two key contributors, another fantasy option could emerge in the City of Brotherly Love. Mike Muscala is likely the best bet until the Sixers make another acquisition. Muscala is currently sidelined with a broken nose (expected to miss about a week), but he played in crunch time before he got hurt.

He’s a career 37.6% shooter from behind the arc and the foursome of J.J. Redick, Embiid, Simmons, and Muscala has the highest net rating among any four-man lineup (min 20 mins played) that coach Brett Brown has at his disposal. It’s easy to envision the 76ers playing those four alongside Butler as they close games.

Wilson Chandler, who started against the Heat on Monday and played 23 minutes, will have an opportunity to sneak into the fantasy discussion, but there’s a good chance that he may get enough of the offensive pie to make a real difference. He previously told Hoops Rumors that he doesn’t expect to play a high usage role for the Sixers this season.

Furkan Korkmaz saw 22 minutes against Miami, his second straight game with that much action. He has made 9-of-17 shots over those two games including six-of-13 from downtown. He’s worth a flier despite the uncertainty around his happiness in Philadelphia. Landry Shamet is also a candidate to see a rise in value and could be worth a speculative add.

What About Minnesota?

On the other side of the trade, Robert Covington‘s value will remain intact. As I mentioned in last week’s Fantasy Hoops, he should be owned in all roto leagues.

Dario Saric gets to another chance at a fresh start after the trade. He’s shooting just 36.4% on the season and as I explained on a recent episode of NBA Math’s Hardwood Knocks, his struggles would be even more apparent to casual fans if not for Markelle Fultz having his own issues. As a member of the Wolves, Saric likely won’t have the luxury of being just the second-most disappointing player should he continue to struggle.

Still, this is a buy-low opportunity for the owners eyeing the Croatian big. He’s had slow starts in the past and he should move into the Timberwolves’ starting lineup once he makes his debut. At least one league executive expects RoCo and The Homie to mesh well with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Towns is the biggest beneficiary of Butler’s departure from a fantasy standpoint. Expect his usage to settle in the 24-28% range. He’s a borderline top-five fantasy option. If you own Nikola Jokic, Towns represents a slight upgrade and I’d recommend attempting to make that swap.

Derrick Rose remains a fantasy zombie and Jeff Teague becomes a more attractive option after the deal. Wiggins, who is nursing a quad injury, had some mysterious DNPs while the Butler saga inflamed. Expect him to see his usage rise ever so slightly.

Fantasy questions? Take to the comment section below or tweet me at @CW_Crouse.

Missed an earlier edition of Fantasy Hoops? Check out the entire series here.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Warriors

In an article packed with details on Monday night’s confrontation between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic reports that Green took exception to the way Durant addressed him following his turnover late in Monday’s game.

According to Thompson, Green made it clear that he’s been making plays for the Warriors for years, well before Durant showed up, and wouldn’t stand for KD talking to him like a scrub. Green also accused Durant of making the whole season about him, even though – in Green’s view – he’s going to leave at the end of the year. Green let out his frustrations with the way his teammate has handled his upcoming free agency, per Thompson, who hears that Green also called Durant a “b***h” several times during the exchange.

As Thompson explains, Warriors management felt Green crossed a line and essentially sided with Durant in hitting Green with a one-game suspension, a rebuke that surprised the Michigan State product.

“With what was said, there is already no way Durant is coming back,” one player told Thompson. “The only hope is that they can say this summer, ‘See, KD. We’ve got your back. We protected you from Draymond.'”

Although the Dubs will be able to point to this incident when Durant reaches free agency to prove he has their full support, Thompson’s account raises doubts about whether it was the right call — if Durant ends up leaving anyway, Golden State will also now have to worry about where things stand with Green.

According to Thompson, the relationship between Green and Durant “needs to be rebuilt,” while the relationship between Green and team management may also now be “in shambles.” This isn’t a situation that will just blow over right away, says Thompson, and that sentiment is echoed by other Bay Area writers, including Dieter Kurtenbach of The Bay Area News Group, Anthony Slater of The Athletic, and Logan Murdock of The Bay Area News Group (Twitter link).

Here’s more on the unexpected drama in Golden State:

  • According to several people in the Warriors’ locker room, Durant could have ended the lingering irritation over his free agency situation by saying how much he loves playing with the Warriors and his teammates, then leaving it at that, Thompson writes. Thompson suggests that Green is among those who believe Durant has had a hand in creating hype about his free agency, distracting from the team’s quest for a third straight title.
  • Thompson reports that Stephen Curry visited Green on Tuesday and Green admitted to Curry that he was wrong for how – and when – he confronted Durant. However, the “general consensus” is that Green’s concerns about Durant’s handling of his upcoming free agency aren’t off base, Thompson adds.
  • Durant spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s game about Green and Monday’s altercation, but his answers were terse, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who provides a partial transcript. In Slater’s view, Green’s barbs stung Durant deeply and he wasn’t ready yet to talk about them publicly — so he didn’t.
  • One prominent player told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link) that he plans to do everything in his power to get Durant and Green back on the same page.
  • Speaking to reporters, including Slater, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson both downplayed the long-lasting impact of Monday’s confrontation. “I think it was an old-school pimp that said: ‘You can’t climb a mountain if it’s smooth,'” Iguodala said. Meanwhile, Thompson offered the following assessment: “A win on Thursday and a win on Saturday and Sunday. That’s called a win streak. (Then) it will not matter and this will be in the past like a ponytail.”

Western Notes: Lowry, Covington, Rockets

The Jazz saw Gordon Hayward walk away after the 2016/17 campaign but he wasn’t the only star the team had an eye on that offseason. Utah spoke with Kyle Lowry‘s representatives during the summer of 2017 and the organization felt confident that it could sign Lowry, sources tell Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

The front office decided to pull out of the Lowry sweepstakes because signing the point guard would have required the team to use the cap space it had planned to use for Hayward. Lowry ended up re-signing with Toronto on a three-year pact.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/13/18

Here are Tuesday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

Mavs Teammates Bothered By DeAndre Jordan’s Play?

DeAndre Jordan‘s up-and-down relationship with the Mavericks organization appears likely to hit another inflection point. Jordan has been a “major disappointment” so far for the Mavs, according to Tim MacMahon, who reports in ESPN’s weekly power rankings that the veteran center has rubbed some teammates the wrong way with what they view as “selfish” play.

Jordan bumped rookie Luka Doncic out of the way to grab an otherwise-uncontested rebound during a recent game, something the team feels is an example of a troubling pattern. The optics compound the issues with Jordan’s fit on the team. Dallas needs him to be an anchor on the defensive end, but he has struggled with help defense, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes. Opposing teams are scoring nearly three points more per 100 possessions when Jordan is on the floor compared to when he sits.

It’s difficult to envision Jordan returning to the Mavericks next season, Feldman contends. The big man, who will be a free agent at the end of the year, is making approximately $24MM this season.

Sixers Remain Interested In Kyle Korver

Fresh off of a blockbuster deal that brought in Jimmy Butler, the Sixers are eyeing moves that will add shooting to a roster depleted of it.

Philadelphia remains “highly” interested in Kyle Korver, as Marc Stein writes in his weekly newsletter for The New York Times. Stein notes that it will be difficult for Philadelphia to acquire Korver now that Jerryd Bayless is no longer on the team. Bayless, who is on an expiring contract worth $8.6MM, was sent to Minnesota in the Butler deal.

Korver signed a three-year, $22MM contract with the Cavaliers during the summer of 2017. LeBron James has since left The Land, making him an awkward fit on a rebuilding squad.

Philadelphia still has options, as a package of Mike Muscala and Zhaire Smith would financially work for a Korver trade. With Muscala seeing meaningful minutes this year, it’s hard to see the Sixers including him or their promising 2018 first-rounder in a deal for the 37-year-old.

Swapping Markelle Fultz for Korver would also work financially, though the team’s front office appears to be taking a patient approach with the former No. 1 overall pick, which makes a Fultz trade unlikely at the moment.

Draymond Green Suspended For One Game

Draymond Green will sit out of tonight’s game against the Hawks, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter link). The Warriors will suspend him without pay, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Green’s absence from the court comes just one night after he clashed with Kevin Durant during and after Monday’s loss to the Clippers. Green attempted to win the game himself during the closing seconds of regulation, committing a turnover and sending the game to overtime. Both All-Stars appeared angry prior to overtime and after the loss, Green reportedly was “forceful” in defending himself on the play that could have won them the game.

Green also reportedly challenged Durant about KD’s upcoming free agency during the confrontation. Durant is expected to decline his player option and hit the open market next summer.

Klay Thompson, who is usually reserved in most situations, spoke up in the locker room, Haynes relays in a full-length piece. The shooting guard reportedly talked with his teammates about the altercation and attempted to unify the team.

The suspension will cost Green roughly $120K, Bobby Marks of ESPN.com tweets. He is expected to be back with the team on Thursday against the Rockets, as the Warriors announce that it will be a one-game suspension (via Twitter). The official reasoning is conduct detrimental to the team.

And-Ones: Warrick, McCullough, Early, Rozier

Former first-round pick Hakim Warrick has logged 526 regular season NBA games over an eight-year career, but has been out of the Association since the 2012/13 campaign, bouncing around various international leagues since then. In a span of just five years, Warrick played for teams in China, Turkey, Australia, Greece, Puerto Rico, Lebanon, and Israel.

Now, as Adam Zagoria details in a piece for Forbes.com, Warrick is giving the G League a try for the first time as he makes one more push for an NBA roster spot. At age 36, the veteran forward is a long shot to earn a contract offer from an NBA team, but believes he could offer “wisdom and experience” in a locker room — as well as still being able to play a little.

In five games so far this season for the Iowa Wolves, Warrick has recorded 9.2 PPG and 6.4 RPG with a .577 FG% in 18.5 MPG. He’s hoping that his play in the G League will earn him a look, telling Zagoria, “It (the G League) just seems the way to go if you want to try to get back in the NBA.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays a pair of international roster moves, tweeting that Chris McCullough‘s one-month deal with Shanxi in China has expired, and writing that Japan’s Tokyo Hachioji Trains have signed Cleanthony Early. McCullough, a 2015 first-round pick, spent time with the Wizards last season, while 2014 second-rounder Early last played in the NBA in 2015/16 for the Knicks.
  • Preparing for the possibility of the Celtics making Terry Rozier available in trade talks later this season, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype identifies four possible landing spots for the point guard, exploring the potential fit for the Knicks, Suns, Magic, and Spurs.
  • In an interesting feature for ESPN.com, Kevin Arnovitz explores the ways in which NBA teams have begun to add major revenue streams entirely unrelated to basketball to their operations.

Warriors Dealing With Aftermath Of Green, Durant Confrontation

3:31pm: In the midst of their verbal altercation on Monday, Green challenged Durant about KD’s upcoming free agency, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who tweets that the incident has been a “simmering issue” for the Warriors today.

1:49pm: Warriors team officials were working on Tuesday to deal with the aftermath of an emotional end-of-game confrontation between Draymond Green and teammates, including Kevin Durant, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears.

As Nick Friedell of ESPN.com detailed late last night, Green and Durant exchanged heated words during Monday’s game against the Clippers after a sequence at the end of regulation — Green grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled up the floor, and committed a turnover while Durant appeared to be calling for the ball. As a result of the missed opportunity, the game went into overtime, with Golden State eventually losing to L.A.

Green and Durant both appeared visibly agitated on the court, with teammates calming them down before the start of overtime. The two All-Stars left the locker room after the game without speaking to reporters, but Wojnarowski and Spears suggest that some Warriors players “loudly confronted” Green in the locker room for his decision-making on that play.

While no one had to be separated and “no hint of physicality loomed in the setting,” according to Wojnarowski and Spears, some of ESPN’s sources described it as one of the most intense altercations of this Warriors era. A few of Green’s teammates took exception with his choice to keep the ball instead of passing it to Durant during those final moments of regulation, and Green was “forceful” in defending himself, sources tell ESPN.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic suggests (via Twitter) that most of the tension stemmed less from the result of the final play itself and more from Green’s strong defense of it and his unwillingness to acknowledge a possible mistake.

Occasional heated arguments aren’t uncommon in NBA locker rooms and this one is hardly a major red flag for the 11-3 Warriors, who still sit atop the Western Conference. Nonetheless, with Durant eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end and rumors already flying about his looming decision, incidents like this one figure to be put under the microscope over the course of the season. For what it’s worth, while Durant and Green didn’t speak to the media after Monday’s game, veteran guard Shaun Livingston downplayed the dispute.

“Just team spirit,” Livingston said, per Friedell. “Team spirit. Guys wanted a different outcome than what happened. Obviously, Dray had the turnover. Guys might have thought they were open or wanted the basketball, didn’t get it. Things happen like that in sports. But it was good to see some fire, some emotion.”