Jimmy Butler Out Indefinitely After Successful Surgery on Knee Injury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2018

Minnesota Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler plays against the New York Knicks in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Jim Mone/Associated Press

Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler will be out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee, the team announced Sunday.

Butler injured his knee in Minnesota's 120-102 loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday.

The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson reported Saturday that Butler was hoping to return in time for the start of the 2018 NBA playoffs, while The Vertical's Shams Charania reported the four-time All-Star could be back in four to six weeks.

Butler is averaging 22.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his first season in Minnesota.

It's impossible to understate his importance to the Timberwolves. According to NBA.com, Minnesota has a 7.8 net rating when Butler is on the court, but minus-7.3 when he's on the bench.

His presence is felt particularly on the defensive end. Opponents are shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from three-point range when Butler is playing, per NBA.com. Those numbers climb to 50.5 percent and 38.9 percent, respectively, when Butler is resting or unavailable.

Even if Butler gets back to 100 percent in time for the playoffs, it may not matter all that much for Minnesota. Only two games separate the third-seeded Timberwolves (37-26) from the seventh-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (34-27).

The Timberwolves shouldn't fall out of the top eight over the next couple of months, but they could very easily slip to sixth or seventh in the Western Conference with a poor stretch of results. The team is 3-4 without Butler this year.

Should Minnesota tumble down the standings, then a first-round matchup with any one of the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs could beckon. Even a full-strength Timberwolves team would struggle to advance past any one of those three teams.

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