Jimmy Butler is demanding. He’s impatient. He is obviously not easy to work with. He may be a tad bit rude. But when the disenfranchised Timberwolves star finally showed at practice on Wednesday afternoon only to curse out teammates, coaches, and executives in a “vociferous” tirade, the one thing you can’t say about Jimmy Butler is that he’s a liar.
Everything Butler said at Timberwolves practice was brash, excessive and disrespectful. He was also not wrong.
Jimmy Butler said: “You (bleeping) need me. You can’t win without me”
Butler reportedly took a team full of third stringers and defeated Minnesota’s starters led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins at practice on Wednesday. When it was over, he let the entire organization know how he felt.
Butler’s alleged victory at practice underscores both the greatness of his talent and how badly the Timberwolves need him to be competitive. The numbers back this up, as well.
The Wolves were one of the best teams in the NBA with Jimmy Butler last season. They were below .500 without him.
With Jimmy Butler in the lineup last season, the Wolves were 37-22. That equates to a 62 percent winning percentage, which would have made the Wolves the third best team in the Western Conference and the sixth best team in the NBA.
Instead, Minnesota needed to win on the last day of the season just to get the No. 8 seed. That’s because when Jimmy Butler missed 23 games with a meniscus tear, Minnesota went just 10-13 without him.
The on-off numbers are also strongly in Butler’s favor
A few numbers to consider:
- When Jimmy Butler was on the floor last season, the Wolves scored 114 points per 100 possessions and allowed 105.6 points on defense. They were 8.4 points better with Jimmy on the floor, a number better than those posted by LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and many more.
- When Jimmy Butler wasn’t on the floor last season, the Wolves scored 107.6 points per 100 possessions and allowed 112.4 on defense. That means they were 4.9 points worse with Butler off the floor.
This is a 13.3 swing in net rating when one guy plays. The win-loss record and the advanced stats both back up Butler’s point during his expletive-filled rant on Tuesday: the Wolves really do need Jimmy Butler to be a good team.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins couldn’t win games without Jimmy Butler
Butler and his hard-charging personality has clashed with Minnesota’s young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler sees a pair of young players were given everything from the moment they entered the league, but haven’t worked hard enough to reach their full potential.
Butler’s story is the opposite. While Towns and Wiggins were each No. 1 overall NBA draft picks, Butler was the last pick of the first round. Butler couldn’t even get a scholarship out of high school, playing junior college ball before eventually signing with Marquette. Butler has had nothing handed to him in the NBA — a testament to the work ethic he doesn’t see in Towns and Wiggins.
Again, the numbers back this up. When Butler was on the bench and Wiggins and Towns were both on the court last season, the Wolves still couldn’t win.
- Minnesota had a -1.2 net rating with Butler on the bench and Towns and Wiggins in the game.
- Minnesota had a +10.3 net rating with Butler on the floor alongside Towns and Wiggins.
Obviously, a lot of this makes sense. The Timberwolves are better with Jimmy Butler, who might be a top 10 player in the NBA. Of course they are! But that doesn’t mean anything Butler said at practice was wrong.
Butler has become one of the NBA’s most abrasive stars, a player who demands the same excellence out of his teammates that he demands from himself. He’s extremely confident in his abilities, and if he doesn’t see you put in the same energy and the same focus that he does, he’s going to tell you about it.
All of that makes Jimmy Butler hard to work with. But it also makes everything he said to the Wolves on Wednesday true.