Justin Patton

Timberwolves Trade Jimmy Butler To Sixers

NOVEMBER 12: The Sixers and Timberwolves have issued press releases announcing that the deal is now official.

NOVEMBER 10: The Sixers have agreed to acquire Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton for Robert Covington, Dario SaricJerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter links). A trade call with the league to finalize the deal has been scheduled for Monday, Charania adds (via Twitter).

Elton Brand‘s first major move as the Sixers’ general manager will allow the team to acquire a third star alongside Simmons and Embiid without having to take their chances trying to lure that sort of impact player to Philadelphia during 2019’s free agent period. It should also reduce the pressure on 2017’s first overall pick Markelle Fultz to develop into that third star.

Butler and the Sixers fully expect to reach an agreement on a long-term deal for the All-NBA swingman once he’s eligible for free agency in 2019, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Philadelphia’s plan is to have a long-term big three of Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, according to Wojnarowski, who suggests (via Twitter) that only a major injury or a poor fit alongside Simmons and Embiid could diminish the Sixers’ optimism on a long-term future with Butler.

It remains to be seen how Butler will fit on and off the court in Philadelphia with the team’s two young stars after failing to make things work with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota, but the four-time All-Star should significantly increase the 76ers’ ceiling. Butler will provide play-making and shooting (.361 3PT% since 2016/17) on offense, and figures to replace Covington as the team’s primary perimeter stopper on defense. As for Patton, his NBA career has been derailed by foot injuries, and he’s unlikely to be a Sixer beyond this season.

Even if they re-sign Butler in 2019, the Sixers won’t necessarily be capped out quite yet, with Simmons still on his rookie deal. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details, with cap holds for Butler and fellow free agent T.J. McConnell to consider, the team would have about $21MM in cap room next summer. If the 76ers want to clear enough room for another max player, trading Fultz would just about get them there, though Philadelphia’s cap sheet could get messy in that scenario, with an eventual max deal for Simmons also on the horizon.

For Minnesota, this trade will end a near two-month saga after Butler’s trade request went public. The week before training camps got underway, word broke that Butler had asked to be traded during a meeting with Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and didn’t intend to report to camp.

When the Wolves didn’t find a trade for Butler right away, he rejoined the team, but the last five or six weeks have been rife with drama. The 29-year-old’s return to Minnesota was highlighted by a now-infamous expletive-filled rant in a preseason practice, and things hadn’t quieted down much since then. Now that the Wolves have finally resolved the situation, the team will have an opportunity to focus on a future centered around former No. 1 overall picks Towns and Wiggins.

The Timberwolves will now add Covington and Saric to that long-term core — Saric won’t be up for restricted free agency until 2020, while Covington is locked up through 2022. Both players make sense for Thibodeau, GM Scott Layden, and the Wolves, who didn’t want to take a significant step back in their roster-building process after snapping a lengthy postseason-less streak this past spring. Covington and Saric will be able to jump into the rotation immediately and should also be part of the team for years to come.

Bayless is on an expiring contract and almost certainly won’t be part of Minnesota’s future plans, as he was just included in the swap for salary-matching purposes. If the Wolves don’t plan for Bayless to have a role this season, he’ll become a buyout candidate.

Thibodeau, Layden, owner Glen Taylor, and the Timberwolves also reportedly discussed potential Butler trades with several other teams before agreeing to terms with the Sixers. The Rockets and Heat were said to be the most aggressive suitors, as Minnesota allegedly passed on a Miami offer that included Josh Richardson and a first-round pick, and also balked at a Houston offer featuring four first-round picks.

We don’t know what the protections on those Rockets’ first-rounders or the Heat first-rounder would have looked like, and the Wolves likely would have had to take on an unwanted multiyear contract in each of those proposals. Still, it will still be fascinating to see how Covington and Saric pan out in Minnesota, since we have a sense of what sort of other packages were available to the Wolves.

While Thibodeau exercised plenty of patience through the Butler saga, that patience ran out after the Timberwolves concluded their 0-5 road trip on Friday, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). League sources told Wojnarowski that Thibodeau came to the realization Minnesota couldn’t win with Butler in such a dysfunctional environment, and told associates that the team wouldn’t play another game with Butler.

Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst also report (via Twitter) that team ownership was “heavily involved” on both sides of the negotiations, with Taylor and Josh Harris of the Sixers working closely with management to finalize a deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Wolves To Decline Justin Patton’s Third-Year Option

The Timberwolves will pass on Justin Patton‘s third-year option for the 2019/20 season, putting the young center on track to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Patton, 21, has been plagued by injuries since entering the NBA as the 16th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Acquired by the Timberwolves on draft night as part of their Jimmy Butler blockbuster with the Bulls, Patton broke his left foot in a workout before even getting a chance to play for Minnesota’s Summer League team.

After initially undergoing surgery on his left foot last July, Patton underwent a follow-up procedure in April, then broke a bone in his right foot in September and had surgery to repair that injury. As a result of his constant health problems, Patton has appeared in just one game for the Wolves, making his NBA debut on April 1. He played four minutes in that contest.

If Minnesota had exercised Patton’s 2019/20 option, it would have guaranteed his $3,117,240 cap hit for that season. By declining the option, the Wolves now won’t be permitted to offer a starting salary larger than that amount if they change course and want to retain the big man next July.

As our tracker shows, Patton is the fourth player confirmed to have his 2019/20 rookie scale option declined, joining Dragan Bender (Suns), Henry Ellenson (Pistons), and Malachi Richardson (Raptors). A handful of other players, including Marquese Chriss (Rockets) are also still at risk of having their options turned down.

Five Rookie Scale Options That May Not Be Exercised

Team and player options on veteran contracts must be exercised by the end of June before the new league year begins on July 1, but the same rules don’t apply to team options in rookie scale contracts. First-round picks who signed standard rookie contracts have third- and fourth-year options included in their deals, and those options must be exercised – or declined – seven months early.

The deadline for rookie scale option decisions is October 31, which means that teams have about another month to decide whether to pick up those options for the 2019/20 season.

It’s an unusual structure, one that forces teams to make decisions before seeing how their players will perform on the court that season. Last fall, for instance, the Magic turned down their fourth-year option on Mario Hezonja for 2018/19. Hezonja subsequently enjoyed his best season as a pro, and instead of entering the final year of his rookie contract with Orlando, he was able to hit the open market and secure a larger salary with the Knicks.

Cases like Hezonja’s are rare, however. For the most part, teams will exercise their rookie scale options, particularly third-year options. Third-year options are generally pretty affordable, and decisions are due after a player has been in the NBA for just one season, so clubs are reluctant to give up on their first-round picks that early.

Still, while many of this year’s rookie scale option decisions will be no-brainers, there are at least a small handful of players who aren’t locks to have their options picked up. Here’s a look at five players who fall into that category:

  1. D.J. Wilson, Bucks (third year, $2,961,120): Wilson had some good games in the G League last season, but his overall NBAGL numbers were just okay for a first-round pick, and he only played 72 minutes in 22 NBA games. As noted above, teams often don’t give up this early on first-round picks, and Wilson’s cap charge is affordable enough that it’s probably worth securing him for at least one more year. This isn’t a slam-dunk though.
  2. Malachi Richardson, Raptors (fourth year, $2,581,597): When the Raptors sent Bruno Caboclo to Sacramento in exchange for Richardson at last season’s trade deadline, it reduced their 2017/18 payroll and increased their flexibility to make a move on the buyout market. But it also meant taking on Richardson’s guarantee for 2018/19, while Caboclo’s contract expired. Richardson seems unlikely to have any sort of role this season on a deep, talented Toronto team, and with the club at risk of being in the tax again in 2019/20, I don’t expect the Raps to lock in Richardson for another year.
  3. Guerschon Yabusele (third year, $3,117,240): While the “Dancing Bear” has no shortage of fans in Boston, it’s hard to see how he’ll earn playing time in a frontcourt that features Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Semi Ojeleye, Daniel Theis, and first-rounder Robert Williams — especially if Jayson Tatum and/or Gordon Hayward see significant minutes at the four. Yabusele has promise, but with the Celtics now in the tax, it might make sense to use his roster spot on a minimum-salary player starting in 2019/20.
  4. Malik Beasley, Nuggets (fourth year, $2,731,714): Denver’s lack of reliable backcourt depth bodes well for Beasley, who could parlay a solid Summer League showing into a regular backup role at shooting guard. The Nuggets don’t have serious tax concerns for 2019/20, so exercising Beasley’s modestly-priced option wouldn’t be a major risk. Still, it would be an easier decision if he’d shown more improvement in his sophomore season. Instead, he posted just 3.2 PPG on 41.0% shooting in 62 games in 2017/18.
  5. Justin Patton, Timberwolves (third year, $3,117,240): After missing nearly all of his rookie season due to foot problems, Patton has undergone another foot procedure this month, raising some doubts about his availability for the 2018/19 season. Nonetheless, I expect the Timberwolves will want to give Patton another chance to get healthy before cutting their losses on him, particularly since he may soon be the lone piece remaining from last summer’s trade with the Bulls.

For a full breakdown of this year’s decisions on 2019/20 rookie scale options, click here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wolves’ Justin Patton Undergoes Foot Surgery

SEPTEMBER 18, 3:07pm: Patton has undergone successful surgery to repair the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, the Timberwolves announced today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 15, 5:57pm: Patton is scheduled to undergo surgery early this week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

SEPTEMBER 15, 5:05pm: Justin Patton‘s bad luck with injuries hasn’t stopped, according to Jace Frederick of The St. Paul Pioneer Press, who reports that the second-year center broke a bone in his right foot this week.

The 16th player taken in the 2017 draft, Patton missed virtually his entire rookie season after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot last summer. He played just one game for Minnesota, seeing four minutes of action. When he was healthy enough to play, the organization kept him in the G League, where he averaged 12.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 38 games for the Iowa Wolves.

Doctors performed a second surgery on Patton’s left foot in April, Frederick notes, to “encourage further healing of a prior metatarsal fracture.” The Timberwolves had been optimistic about Patton’s progress and were hoping to have him cleared for contact in time for training camp.

The latest injury could complicate the Wolves’ thinking on the third-year option for Patton, which must be picked up by October 31. Teams rarely give up on players that quickly, but serious injuries to both feet in two seasons could cause Minnesota think twice about committing a roster spot for Patton for another year.

Timberwolves Notes: Nunnally, Patton, Drama

The Timberwolves could potentially use James Nunnally in Jamal Crawford‘s role, Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune writes. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has developed a fondness for using a three-guard offense off the bench.

In a comprehensive feature, Reusse details Nunnaly’s path to the Timberwolves in 2018. The swingman went undrafted in 2012 and has made several stops around the NBA and abroad since.

Nunnally has proven that he can be potent deep threat while also contributing defensively. If he can come anywhere close to the .554 he shot from beyond the arc in Germany last year, it will be a marked improvement over the .331 that Crawford shot in 2017/18.

There’s more from the Timberwolves today:

  • The Timberwolves have officially ruled Justin Patton out indefinitely. The team issued a press release that said the center will have surgery in the near future.
  • The upcoming season will have massive implications for the Timberwolves’ future, Drew Maresca of Basketball Insiders writes. At present, only one of the three stars in Minnesota’s locker room are signed long-term. Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns can be free agents next summer.
  • Last night we asked readers to tell us what they think will come of this Timberwolves team. Weigh in at our Community Shootaround.

Thibodeau Shoots Down Chemistry Concerns

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau shot down reports regarding chemistry issues and Jimmy Butler‘s desire to leave after next season during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Butler was supposedly unhappy with his younger teammates and looking to pair up with Kyrie Irving when he can enter free agency next summer. Thibodeau said Butler has not voiced any displeasure about his teammates to him.

“I’ve been around a long time, I don’t buy into any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said. “You have to distinguish what’s real and what’s not real. You never heard any of that come from Jimmy’s mouth. It’s always a source close to Jimmy. If Jimmy has something to say to someone, he usually says it directly.”

Thibodeau also said he anticipated that Butler would turn down the team’s extension offer because he could make more in free agency but the franchise is still optimistic on re-signing him.

“We know the position we’re in. We have a lot to offer him. We think this is the best place for him and it’s up to us to show him the reasons why.”

Thibodeau also addressed a number of other topics:

  • He’s also “very optimistic” big man Karl-Anthony Towns will sign a contract extension by the October 15 deadline. “We know how important Karl is to the future of the organization,” Thibodeau said. As we noted in our Extension Candidate series, Towns is likely to sign a max extension.
  • Former Pistons assistant Malik Allen has been added to his coaching staff, replacing Rick Brunson. Allen joined the staff of ex-Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy in 2014. Brunson resigned in May amid allegations of misconduct.
  • Center Justin Patton should be cleared for contact by the start of training camp. The 7-foot Patton, the 16th overall pick in 2017, appeared in just one game last season after undergoing two foot surgeries.

Wolves Notes: Thibodeau, Towns, Aldrich, Patton

Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden hosted a news conference this afternoon to discuss tomorrow’s draft, upcoming free agency, and reports of Karl-Anthony Towns wanting out of Minnesota, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

Despite reports of Towns’ unhappiness, Thibodeau says the relationship between the franchise and its star player is all well, telling reporters that everybody is in a good place.

 “Yeah, yeah. He’s doing quite well. And I love KAT. He has had a terrific start to his career… To get to where we are — obviously we’re not ultimately where we want to be, but it was a major step forward — you can’t do it individually. It’s got to be the whole group doing it together. And for the most part, I think we are in a good place.”

Regarding the draft, the Wolves own the No. 20 and No. 48 picks and Thibodeau said anything remains possible as the team tries to address their needs.

“It’s one of the few times through the year you have a chance to improve the club, so all options are open right now. We know there’s a great challenge in front of us. The shooting and the toughness, the defense and building the depth.”

As for free agency, Layden said that the team would concentrate more on the free agent market once July 1 draws closer, but that he knows the type of player Thibodeau looks for.

“We know the type of player we need to be in coach’s system and to succeed here. I think we have a real good understanding of that now. So whether it’d be trade, whether it be through free agency or the draft, we have a clear understanding of what type of players will fit here.”

There’s more out of Minneapolis:

  • In the same story, Zgoda says he expects the team to buy out backup center Cole Aldrich before the new league year begins next weekend. Aldrich is owed nearly $7MM in 2018/19, but only about $2MM is guaranteed, so the Wolves can significantly reduce his cap hit by cutting him. Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News confirms that the salary guarantee deadline for Aldrich is June 30.
  • Another backup center, Justin Patton, whom the Wolves used their first round selection on last year at No. 16, is finally working out after surgery, but Thibodeau says he will miss all summer and likely most of the fall as well, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • Krawczynski also tweeted that Layden believes the team is fortunate because their need for wings and shooting line up well with what prospects should still be available at No. 20 tomorrow night.
  • In a separate piece for the Star Tribune, Zgoda takes a look at the prospects the Wolves may be targeting with the No. 20 overall selection, including Grayson AllenDonte DiVincenzoKhyri Thomas, and Jacob Evans.

Timberwolves’ Justin Patton Undergoes Foot Surgery

Timberwolves rookie center Justin Patton is done for the season, with the team announcing overnight in a press release that Patton has undergone surgery on his left foot. He will be out indefinitely, according to the Wolves.

It’s the second time Patton has had surgery on the same foot within the last year. Shortly after he was drafted by the Wolves last summer, the rookie underwent a procedure to repair a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot. The latest surgery is designed to encourage further healing of that same fracture, per the Timberwolves’ announcement.

According to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link), Minnesota is hopeful that Patton will be ready to go for the start of training camp in the fall. Still, as Krawczynski observes, the nagging foot issues are a concern, since similar foot problems have felled promising NBA big men in the past.

The 16th overall pick in last year’s draft, Patton appeared in just one game for the Wolves during the 2017/18 season, playing four minutes during an April 1 loss to Utah. He did see action in 38 G League games, however, posting 12.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.4 BPG in 23.1 minutes per contest.

The Wolves will have to decide this offseason whether to exercise or decline Patton’s $3,117,240 option for the 2019/20 season. Third-year options for players on rookie scale contracts are rarely declined, so I don’t expect the team to turn this one down. Still, the 20-year-old will be under some pressure to make it back from this foot surgery and show some potential on the court in Minnesota next season.

Injury Updates: Mitchell, Embiid, Turner, Lauvergne

Donovan Mitchell will be a game-time decision for the Jazz tonight, according to Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune. Mitchell, who stubbed a toe during the second half of the series opener with Oklahoma City, plans to go through warm-ups before deciding if he can play.

“If I’m limping or whatever, if I’m out there kinda trying to adjust and not playing right like my normal self, that will dictate it,” he said. “That was really my first time going at it since the game. … I’m waiting to see what I feel right before the game, so we’ll go from there.”

Mitchell, who is listed as questionable for tonight’s contest, was able to return to Sunday’s game after the injury, but has been limited at practice this week. He is Utah’s leading scorer at 20.5 points per game and posted 27 in the series opener.

There’s more injury-related news to pass along:

  • The Sixers are listing Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 3, the team announced on Twitter. Coach Brett Brown said Embiid, who is recovering from March 31 facial surgery, was able to handle contact “quite well” in Tuesday’s practice, relays Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia (Twitter link). “He did a little bit of contact,” Brown said. “Not much, but a little. Got up and down and scripted some plays. But really not much more than that.” Embiid will be evaluated again at tomorrow’s shootaround (Twitter link).
  • Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner is questionable for Game 3 after suffering a bruised toe last night against the Pelicans, reports Jason Quick of NBC Sports Northwest. Turner was kicked in his big toe during a scramble for a loose ball and was limping after the game. Jusuf Nurkic, who left Tuesday’s game with a leg bruise, is expected to be OK.
  • The Spurs are listing Joffrey Lauvergne as out for Game 3 because of “personal business,” with no explanation of what that involves, relays Cody McCrary of The San Antonio Express-News.
  • The Timberwolves will be without rookie center Justin Patton tonight because of a sore left foot, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/25/18

Here are Sunday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Rockets have recalled center Zhou Qi from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. The 7’1” center has made 14 brief appearances with the Rockets this season. He’s averaging 11.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 2.3 BPG in G League play.
  • The Raptors recalled forward Nigel Hayes from their Raptors 905 affiliate, the team’s media relations staff tweets. Hayes has appeared in 43 G League games this season, averaging 15.0 PPG and 6.1 RPG. He’s also made two cameo appearances for Toronto, which signed him to a second 10-day contract on March 16th.
  • The Timberwolves recalled rookie center Justin Patton from their Iowa affiliate, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The 7-footer averaged 12.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 1.4 BPG for the Iowa Wolves, who did not qualify for the G League playoffs. Patton has yet to make his NBA debut.
  • The Warriors recalled Damian Jones from the Santa Cruz Warriors, the team announced in a press release. The center has averaged 15.0 points and 8.1 boards in 44 games with the affiliate. Also, two-way forward Chris Boucher has also been recalled from Santa Cruz. He appeared in one game with the Warrior.
  • The Suns recalled veteran big man Alan Williams from their G League affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns, as part of his rehab process in returning from a torn right meniscus, per an official press release.