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Are the Timberwolves still missing Jimmy Butler?

Things are happier at Target Center, but the results haven't appeared on the court.

We are over one year removed since the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler, but even after the trade to bring the mercurial guard to Minnesota set the franchise back about five years, there still seems to be a dark cloud hanging over the team.

As the Timberwolves lost their seventh straight game to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, they continue to fall out of the playoff race in the loaded Western Conference with a record of 10-15.

Even though Butler has been gone for nearly 13 months since his relationship with the Timberwolves exploded, some people can't stop talking about it and where the team could be had Butler stayed.

One of those people was Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, who discussed the Timberwolves and (mainly) Butler on ESPN's The Jump earlier this week. 

After raving about Butler's competitiveness and ability to lift up his teammates, host Rachel Nichols pointed out that Butler wasn't well-liked in Minnesota which led him to drop this soundbite.

"They didn't like winning in Minnesota," Pippen said. "That's why they didn't like him. They wanted individual stats. Jimmy Butler is a winner."

Although the departure of Butler and then head coach Tom Thibodeau has created a breath of fresh air and a different culture in Minnesota, it may hard to disagree with Pippen's assessment of the Timberwolves and Butler.

After leaving Minnesota, Butler helped lead the 76ers to the Eastern Conference semifinals and if it weren't for Kawhi Leonard's hanging-on-the-rim buzzer-beater, there's a chance Philadelphia could have been headed toward the NBA Finals in a wide-open Eastern Conference.

Even after his Philadelphia days, Butler headed to Miami in free agency and the Heat have reaped the benefits. Entering Saturday's games, the Heat were third in the Eastern Conference with a record of 18-7 including an 11-1 mark on their home floor.

Meanwhile, there are some positives that have sprung up in the wake of Butler's departure nearly one year later. Karl-Anthony Towns is currently averaging a career-high 26.5 points per game while Andrew Wiggins his finally stepped up in his own right with career-highs in points per game (25.0), rebounds per game (5.1) while also being willing to chuck up more three-pointers.

Still, even though the Wolves have enjoyed their impromptu workout sessions on road trips and the occasional Top Golf outing, there seems to be something missing from this team.

Outside of Wiggins and Towns, the Wolves have had issues finding anyone to step up to be a solid third contributor and that's led to some winnable games getting away, especially at the Target Center where the Wolves own the Western Conference's second-worst record at 4-12 ahead of the Golden State Warriors (3-15). 

Because of this, the Timberwolves are searching for another piece with trade rumors surrounding Kyle Lowry and old flame D'Angelo Russell popping up once again. 

However, it's fair to wonder if either move would be what the Wolves need to go from NBA afterthought to the relevant team they were with Butler as they were in third place in the Western Conference during the 2017-2018 season before he went down with a knee injury.

13 months later, we still don't have an answer and until the Wolves figure it out, it will be status quo with this franchise.

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