The Minnesota Timberwolves traded for Jimmy Butler this summer, and the price they paid seems to be greater now than it did when they made the move — both Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn are looking much more promising than most anticipated. Butler, meanwhile, seemed to be taking a step back through the first part of his tenure with his new team.
Playing alongside up-and-coming stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, Butler deferred early on, concerned more with keeping them involved than putting up impressive numbers of his own.
Lately, though, that’s started to change. Butler is finding his way — and his voice as a leader — as he’s making the Timberwolves his own team. As he’s doing that, he has Minnesota playing winning basketball.
And here is what he’s been doing since Dec. 3.
Notice anything different there?
Before Dec. 3, the Wolves were 13-10, with a net rating of plus-0.6. That’s not great, but it’s pretty happy-dance worthy of a team that hasn’t made the postseason since George W. Bush was in his first term. They were essentially slightly above average, which hey, it beats the heck out of being a perennial doormat.
But Butler wanted more, and since he stepped up his game, the Wolves are 9-4 with a plus-4.3 net rating, which is third in the league, per NBA.com. Prior to his taking over, the Wolves were minus-22.9 in clutch situations with Butler on the court. Since then, they’re plus-4.9, in large part because Butler’s usage percentage has gone from 28.5 to 51.8.
His 65 total points in the clutch in that span is the most of any player in the NBA and includes some monumental performances, such as when he scored 12 of the Timberwolves’ overtime points against the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 27th.