Did Jimmy Butler Take a Big Risk with Meniscus Surgery to Play in 2018?

jimmy-butler-2018-injury-returnJimmy Butler recently suffered a meniscus injury to his right knee. He underwent successful surgery and could see the court again in as little as four weeks.

This has to make the team feel good, given that they feared Butler was lost for the year when he crumpled to the floor. But it’s also possible that he’s put his long-term health in jeopardy by choosing to have a specific meniscus surgery.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports that Butler could’ve opted for a full meniscus repair and returned in the 2018-19 campaign. But he instead went with a different surgery and shorter recovery timeline.

“An NBA executive explained to me that the Yahoo Sports’ timeline suggests that the torn part of the meniscus will be “shaved” via arthroscopic surgery, which often leads to a faster recovery, but can lead to pain or complications down the line,” writes O’Connor.

“The alternative was for Butler to undergo a full repair, which involves sewing the tear together like you might mend ripped jeans. That route would have produced fewer potential complications, but also would have sidelined him the rest of the season.”

Did Coach Tom Thibodeau’s Culture Influence This Decision?

Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau has always been a hard-driving coach who preaches hustle and strong defense regardless of the situation. And Butler, who also played for Thibodeau in Chicago, has thrived under this system.

But there will inevitably be people who question whether Thibodeaeu’s team culture influenced Butler to make this decision.

After all, his system calls for toughness and a willingness to play through pain. And questions will arise if Butler has more problems flare up in the same knee.

However, this is also merely speculation and nobody outside the organization truly knows the full story. In fact, there are times where a full repair isn’t an option.

And considering how competitive Butler is, he likely opted for surgery that would help him return to the court sooner than later.

What Kind of Future is Butler Looking at?

jimmy-butler-timberwolves-injury-1Butler is currently 28 years old and in the prime of his career. He’s had a great season so far too, averaging 22.4 PPG, 5.0 APG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.9 SPG.

But how he rebounds from this knee surgery will go a long way towards determining his NBA future. Assuming everything is alright, he may sign another big deal with the Timberwolves. Or he might find a more-lucrative deal elsewhere.

Here’s more from O’Connor on what could happen between Minnesota and Butler when his deal ends in 2019 (player option) or 2020:

“Butler will make $20.4 million in 2018-19 and has a $19.8 million player option for 2019-20. If he declines his option and signed an extension this summer, Butler’s deal would start at “only” $24.5 million in 2019-20 but provide immediate long-term security.

“If he waits until next summer, he could earn 30 percent of the 2019-20 salary cap—or roughly $32.4 million (based on a projected salary cap of $108 million). Long-term security is nice, so that’s not a bad deal for a player who has missed a lot of games with injuries in the past and whose aggressive style doesn’t exactly bode well for a long, sustainable career.”

O’Connor adds that Butler could even decline his player option in 2019-20 and test the free agent market. Again, as long as his knee is at full strength, he’ll fetch a giant contract from somebody.

Minnesota may decide that they’re not willing to pay him, given how expensive their younger players are. Andrew Wiggins already inked a maximum extension in October, which he hasn’t justified so far.

butler-wiggins-townsGorgui Dieng was re-signed to a deal that’s he’s not playing up to. And this lasts until the 2020-21 campaign. Jeff Teague is also on an expensive contract through the 2019-20 season.

Then there’s Karl-Anthony Towns, whom the team will look to keep at all costs. Towns is going to be a free agent in 2019 and will command a max deal with the T-Wolves, or wherever he goes.

Butler is still more valuable than any of these players in the immediate future. But Minnesota must still evaluate his injury history before re-signing him when the time comes.

2018 Minnesota Timberwolves Futures

The Timberwolves opened the 2017-18 season as darkhorse title contenders after trading for Butler. And they’ve played up to this billing so far, sitting at 38-28 and fourth place in the Western Conference right now.

But as can be seen in our 2018 NBA futures at GTBets, Minnesota doesn’t have a great chance to win the title. They currently have the 9th best odds at +8000.

Will these odds change with a healthy Butler? We’ll soon find out in the coming weeks.

2018 NBA Championship Futures

  • Golden State -200
  • Houston +250
  • Cleveland +750
  • Toronto +1400
  • Boston +2000
  • Oklahoma City +3500
  • San Antonio +3500
  • Washington +6000
  • Milwaukee +7500
  • Minnesota +8000
  • Philadelphia +8000