Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves' disgruntled star guard, will sit out Sunday's game against the Trail Blazers for "precautionary rest."
After Saturday's loss to the Lakers, Portland is facing the second game of a rare home back-to-back on Sunday night. Butler sitting out would appear to be a break for the Blazers, but the stats indicate otherwise.
Sunday will mark the third time in the Timberwolves' first 10 games that Butler, who demanded a trade before the season started, has sat out a game. He's averaging 22.3 points and five rebounds per game. Though Butler is playing as well as ever individually, the Timberwolves have actually been better this season with him off the court, according to cleaningtheglass.com.
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Minnesota's defense has definitely been stingier with Butler, allowing 9.3 fewer points per 100 possessions, but the offense has been much better when he sits this season. Minnesota is averaging 15.8 points more per 100 possessions without Butler on the court.
Those kind of numbers are limited to this season. During the first seven seasons of his career, Butler has never had a negative impact on his team's statistics on either offense or defense. In 2017-18, for example, the Timberwolves' offense was 4.7 points better per 100 possessions with Butler on the court and the defense gave up 8.8 fewer points per 100 possessions when he played.
The difference this season has been drastic enough to suggest that other factors (Butler's trade demand and erratic behavior) are affecting Butler's impact on the court for Minnesota.
In the Timberwolves' two games this season without Butler, a loss to the Dallas Mavericks and a win against the Utah Jazz, Derrick Rose and Karl-Anthony Towns have stepped up to fill the void.
Rose is averaging 39 points, 5.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds in those two games, far better than his season averages of 17.0 points, 4.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns has averaged 29.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two games without Butler, better than his season averages of 18.2 points and 10.7 rebounds.
The Blazers will be without Maurice Harkless on Sunday night, who will miss his fifth consecutive game with left knee soreness. Jusuf Nurkic is listed as probable with a left wrist sprain.