Life without Jimmy Butler isn't so bad for the Timberwolves. In fact, it's much better.
Not only is the drama that his trade request brought to the franchise gone, but the Wolves have won six of eight games since dealing him to the 76ers and all of their vitals suggest they're a much better team without him.
Most stunning is Minnesota's incredible turn for the better on defense. Minnesota's defensive rating with Butler was 28th in the NBA, allowing 114.3 point per 100 possessions. In eight games without him, they're ranked 2nd in the NBA at just 101 points per 100 possessions.
For context, consider that Oklahoma City's 102.6 defensive rating is tops in the NBA for the entire season, so the Wolves have essentially played high-end defense since ditching the All-Star who wanted out.
Here's an insane stat for you: With Butler on the roster, the Wolves allowed 110+ points in 12 of 13 games. In eight games since trading him, they've allowed 110+ points just once, and not once since Robert Covington joined the starting lineup.
A lot of their success should be credited to Covington, the First Team All-NBA defender they got in return for Butler, a Second Team All-NBA defensive player.
Covington's defensive rating was 106 with the 76ers and 107 with the Wolves, both very respectable. Butler's defensive rating in Minnesota was 110, so it's the difference of 3-4 points every 100 possessions, which is not insignificant.
Offense still rolling without Butler
Offensively, the Wolves have slowed their pace (11th with Butler, 20th without him) but are scoring 106.5 points per 100 possessions, which is only slightly down from the 107.2 offensive rating they had with Butler.
In layman terms, they Wolves aren't any worse off offensively without Butler, who was their leading scorer.
Another NBA analytic that gets a bunch of respect nowadays is the PIE rating, which essentially takes into account factors at the team and player level and creates a percentage. Anything over 50 percent generally means a team is a winner.
Minnesota's PIE rating with Butler was 46.7 percent (22nd in the NBA) and without him it's 54.5 percent (2nd in the NBA).
Wolves can win without Butler
Butler reportedly said "You can't win without me" when he returned to practice for the first time during the preseason. Well, a 4-9 record with him compared to 6-2 without him on the roster says otherwise.
If you include the three games Minnesota played without Butler before he was traded – those pesky general soreness games – the Wolves are actually 8-3 without him and 3-8 with him.