One year ago at the NBA draft, the Timberwolves pulled off one of the most significant trades in franchise history when they landed Jimmy Butler from Chicago. The Wolves hold the No. 20 pick this year (instead of No. 7, as they did last year), so this draft might not be as dramatic (though you never know). The Butler trade has had a huge impact in many different directions and continues to shape what the Wolves will do this offseason. With that in mind, let's take a quick look back and assess the trade one year later.
• Butler was the best player in the trade by a significant margin. The Wolves had to give up Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and No. 7 pick Lauri Markkanen. They received Butler and No. 16 pick Justin Patton.
Butler is a top-15 player in the NBA (evidence: two consecutive third-team All-NBA selections). The team that gets the best player generally wins a trade. That distinction goes to the Wolves, and I have a hard time seeing a future when any of those other three players — who all have strengths and talent — eclipse what Butler has already done.
• He made the Wolves immediately relevant. Sure, the Wolves went out and added Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford in free agency as they vaulted from 31 to 47 wins and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Butler, though, was the main catalyst. Evidence of systemic improvement from within was minimal last season. The Wolves improved because they added better players, and Butler was chief among them. Minnesota was 37-22 in the regular season when he was on the court last season and 10-13 without him.
• He started to change the culture. I say started because the Wolves aren't anywhere near where they need to be (or where coach/POBO Tom Thibodeau wants them to be). But Butler is demanding, accountable and an excellent defender. He does not accept losing. And he does not accept less than 100 percent effort. As a model for younger players, his demands might be a little "old school," but a 16-win improvement is evidence that his voice needs to be heard.
• The Wolves, as noted, had to give up three big pieces — two of them salary-controlled — to get Butler. It might not have felt so lopsided in terms of roster balance and depth if the No. 16 pick had been more immediately useful, but Patton was a project to begin with and ended up with a mostly wasted season (one game played in the NBA) because of injury problems. The Wolves no doubt would have been a deeper team last season had they not made the trade.
• It created a salary cap conundrum whereby the Wolves have to figure out how to pay Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Butler huge contracts if they want to keep this nucleus together. They would have been in a similar boat had they kept LaVine, though signing Butler will be even more expensive.
• Year 1 of Butler plus Wiggins did not go well. There were signs of dissent between Butler and Wiggins (and to an extent Towns), with Butler constantly demanding more. Already in the offseason there were rumors that Towns isn't happy and that Butler isn't sure about Wiggins. If the hope was that Butler's presence would help Wiggins blossom by taking pressure off, that has not at all happened.
I'd still make the trade 100 times out of 100. And if it comes down to Butler vs. Wiggins, trading Wiggins is absolutely the right move. On balance, this was a good trade with unintended consequences.