Jimmy Butler is leaving the Western Conference. That’s good for the Phoenix Suns this season and for many seasons to come.
The Phoenix Suns have a long way to go before they can become contenders in the Western Conference, but part of their ascent will depend on the West getting weaker. Jimmy Butler being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers is a first step toward that happening.
Over the past two offseasons, many stars have moved from the East to the West, which already had more stars to begin with. The result last season was 46 wins not being enough to make the playoffs. And that was before LeBron James was added to a 35 win team. On top of that, two teams with top five picks last season, the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies, are currently over .500.
That adds up to 13 out of 14 teams who are clearly much better than the Suns right now. The one team not included, the Dallas Mavericks, is still two games ahead of the Suns. That being said, the Suns beat them by 21, and they’re definitely on a similar level. Still, 13 quality teams in the same conference is brutal. With Jimmy Butler leaving, that may drop to 12.
The Minnesota Timberwolves made the playoffs last season, but they were already a mess to start the year, currently sitting at 4-9. There may have still been hope things could work out and they could get back to their form from last season, but this deal officially puts the nail in that coffin.
The Wolves got back Robert Covington and Dario Saric, two very good pieces. But they’re not stars like Butler. This trade may actually make them better considering how awful their start was, but there’s little chance it gets them to be as good as they were last season, meaning it’s pretty unlikely they make the playoffs.
The Timberwolves are another young team in the West the Phoenix Suns will have to compete with for years to come. With their star wing leaving, they’ve gotten worse now, which is good for the Suns, but they’ve also likely lowered their ceiling in the future, another positive. Finally, a star has left the West. The Suns should be happy about it.