Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes things work out just fine. Let’s get to it:
*It’s been about two weeks since the Wolves’ trade of Jimmy Butler to the 76ers for Robert Covington and Dario Saric became official.
The Wolves are 6-2 since the move was made, including 5-2 since the new players joined their lineup. The 76ers are 6-2 since the move was made, including 5-2 since Butler joined the lineup.
So both teams have achieved the exact same success, albeit via different means. The 76ers have been one of the league’s best offensive teams since Butler’s arrival, ranking No. 6 in the NBA in offensive rating in the last seven games with him playing.
But they’ve been No. 25 in defensive rating and have required some late-game heroics from Butler. Twice he’s made game-winning shots at the buzzer after going 0-for-last season on late game clutch shots for the Wolves.
The Wolves, meanwhile, are allowing just 99.9 points per 100 possessions in their last seven games with Covington and Saric — the second-best mark in the NBA in that span. But they’re just No. 26 in offensive rating since the trade.
In terms of net rating, the Wolves are No. 6 (plus 5.5) over the last seven games, while the 76ers are No. 16 (plus 0.1) in the same span.
The bottom line is results, and so far this much is clear: the trade has certainly helped the Wolves and it appears to have done the same for the 76ers. It might be one of those rare deals that works out great for both sides.
*It was interesting, by the way, to see the Wolves used a crunch time lineup in Monday’s 102-95 win at Cleveland that included Derrick Rose instead of the struggling Andrew Wiggins to go with the four other starters. Rose right now is the team’s third-most valuable player behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Covington.
*Remember how crowded the NBA Western Conference was last season, with just three games separating the Nos. 3-9 seeds and the Wolves needing a Game 82 win just to make the playoffs as the No. 8 seed with 47 wins? It’s shaping up to be the same way this year. The Nos. 1-14 teams are separated by just 5.5 games, and 13 teams are all within at least one game of .500.
The Wolves at 10-11, by the way, are just a half-game back of the No. 8 spot. It will be a challenge to make the playoffs again after that 4-9 start in the crowded West, but Minnesota’s 6-2 spurt has put them back into the conversation at least.
*The Vikings’ path to a repeat NFC North title is narrow given that they’re 1.5 games back of the Bears with five to play, but here’s the formula: Minnesota needs to split these next two tough road games against New England and Seattle (preferably picking up the win over Seattle for possible Wild Card purposes) and then sweep the next two against Miami (home) and Detroit (road).
In the mean time, the Bears need to go 2-2, likely losing to the Rams (quite possible) and the Packers (eh, that game is in Chicago and Green Bay hasn’t won on the road all year, but it’s either that or hope the Bears lose on the road to either the Giants or 49ers).
If Minnesota can gain a game in the next four, that puts them within striking distance for a winner-take-all Week 17 rematch with the Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium.