In surveying options on the trade market for Jimmy Butler, Wolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau had deals before him that could help the Wolves in the long term, short term or a mixture of both.
After pulling the trigger on a deal for Philadelphia’s Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless, Thibodeau’s priorities were clear: He’s still trying to win now.
Thibodeau could have opted for a deal like the one Houston reportedly offered (four first-round draft picks).
Thibodeau said throughout the last two months while Butler was still here that he was waiting for the right deal to come along — which, according to him, also happened to be one that comes with the most immediate relief.
“We wanted quality players. That was important for us,” Thibodeau said. “[We get] two starters [Covington and Saric] off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young. … Once we get to that point where we felt we were getting multiple rotational players, we felt it would be time to execute the deal.”
Thibodeau, who addressed the trade for the first time publicly Monday after it became official, decided the time had come after the Wolves went 0-5 on their recent West Coast trip. Thibodeau didn’t indicate that the timing of the slide had anything to do with the team’s recent misfortune, although after Friday’s loss to Sacramento Thibodeau insisted the Wolves “have got to change it.”
Thibodeau instead said the deal happened because the 76ers had an offer the Wolves thought was acceptable after weeks of negotiations with many teams.
“You set the parameters of what you’re looking for, and we knew exactly what we were looking for,” Thibodeau said. “And once we felt we got to that point where the offers met some of the things we were looking for, then we decided OK, now it’s time.”
It wasn’t quite the time for the Wolves in early October to accept a deal that included budding guard Josh Richardson and a first-round pick, a deal that fell apart at the last minute. That deal could have helped the Wolves in the near and long terms.
As it stands, the deal will remake the Wolves current roster. Thibodeau wasn’t sure if Covington and Saric would start but said they would have “significant” roles. Wolves forward Taj Gibson said he would be OK coming off the bench if Saric was in the starting lineup.
The move also creates a hole on the current Wolves roster, given that Butler was the most forceful personality on the team. It leaves a lot of responsibility on the plate of Andrew Wiggins, who is in the first year of his maximum contract, and Karl-Anthony Towns, who will begin his max contract next season.
Towns seemed reluctant to step into that void when he addressed the media Sunday.
“First of all, I’m not one of the most important [players on the team],’’ Towns said. “I’m just a piece on this team. Everyone is just as important as the next.”
Veteran forward Anthony Tolliver had a different take, saying those contracts Towns and Wiggins signed mean something when it comes to locker-room cache and obligations — especially now, in a locker room that is changing.
“What really matters is those guys understanding the responsibility of being max players,’’ Tolliver said. “Being depended on every single night to bring a certain level of consistency. I think that both of them are very young. But it’s up to all of us around them to continue to bring them along on the consistency side, and on the responsibility side.”
Staff writer Kent Youngblood contributed to this report.