Although Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns both downplayed the idea, there was a sense that a frayed relationship between the two Timberwolves stars contributed significantly to Butler’s desire to leave Minnesota. Now that Butler is heading to Philadelphia, there’s no need for the two stars to play nice, but Towns still had nothing but praise for the four-time All-Star on his way out.
“He’s one hell of a player,” Towns said on Sunday, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “I don’t know how many Jimmy Butlers there are in the world, so I think he’ll be missed.”
Rumors circulated throughout Butler’s short-lived stint in Minnesota that there was friction between him and the team’s younger players – primarily former No. 1 overall pick Towns and Andrew Wiggins – with reports suggesting that the 29-year-old questioned his teammates’ desire to win. Butler came close to acknowledging that point during a preseason interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols when he cited Towns and Wiggins as the Wolves with the most talent, but referred to himself the one who played the hardest.
Despite that reported friction, Wiggins also complimented Butler following word of Minnesota’s trade agreement with Philadelphia. As Andrew relays, Wiggins told Joel Embiid that Butler is a player you “want on your side” if you’re going into battle.
“I learned a lot of things from him,” Wiggins said of Butler. “We made the playoffs, something we haven’t done in a long, long time. So I think it was a positive either way you put it.”
While Towns and Wiggins appear to be sticking to the line that there were no off-court issues with Butler, they should have the opportunity to regain larger roles on the court now that he’s gone.
In 2016/17, the season before Butler’s arrival, Wiggins averaged 23.6 PPG on 19.1 FGA, while Towns posted 25.1 PPG on 18.0 FGA. Those were career highs for both players, who saw those marks slip to 17.6 PPG and 15.8 FGA (Wiggins) and 21.1 PPG and 14.4 FGA (Towns) during Butler’s tenure in Minnesota.