What exactly does Jimmy Butler want? That’s the big question at the heart of his recent trade to the Philadelphia 76ers. Whatever you think Butler’s motives are, that’s what defines your idea of this trade. If he’s in it for the money then he’s going to get it. If he’s out to dodge the chemistry issues in Minnesota then that’s a much bigger concern. If it’s all about winning then it’s a minor success.
The situation in Minnesota wasn’t quite untenable, few things are in the wild world of NBA basketball, but it was obviously preferable that he get traded sooner rather than later. The dude didn’t wanna be there and his relationships with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins were a wreck. Maybe not as bad as it’s been suggested but either way they damn sure weren’t winning games like they were supposed to. His big alpha wolf show before the season might’ve been a bit of a publicity stunt but whatever was going on it was too combustible to last without something changing. The Timberwolves are already committed to Towns and Wiggins on max deals so that was that from their point of view, just a matter of what they could in return get for Jimmy (as well as getting him out of the Western Conference).
And really it was the Wolves who had control of the situation. It was suggested that the Miami Heat were hot in discussions to get Butler over to Florida and that would’ve been a pretty solid fit. Definite echoes of prime Dwyane Wade in the way he plays, you know. The Houston Rockets were another team mentioned but I dunno how that would’ve worked. And I’d have loved to see him on New York or Brooklyn. No doubt there were plenty others interested as well… but then along came the Philadelphia 76ers and they offered enough to get the deal over the line.
Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton go to the 76ers along with a 2022 second round pick. The Wolves in return received Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless. It’s not a massive haul and you could argue that Miami’s proposed deal including Josh Richardson, a firstie and a contract dump would have been better. But then there was talk about Butler preparing to sit out games until the trade was completed and with Covington and Saric there’s a decent fit in those crucial win positions and that was that. Get it done.
Okay so that’s what happened, but what does it mean? For the Wolves it means they’re free of a large, dark shadow looming over them. They do not get better after this trade, at least in terms of talent, but with Derrick Rose playing his best basketball in years and Jeff Teague getting closer to a return, not to mention the chemistry dramas going on with Butler and Towns/Wiggins, this could be a case of addition by subtraction. Might bring out some much needed positivity in Minny.
But forget about them because who really thinks they can make the playoffs in the West this season anyway? That team plays trash defence and they’ve got serious issues trying to get the best out of their young core, defence in the case of Towns and offence in the case of Wiggins. No idea how that works under the pressurised gaze of Tom Thibodeau, a coach notorious for driving his dudes into the ground.
Nope, this trade is really all about the Philly 76ers. A team built from the treasure haul of The Process. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Plenty of acquired sidemen (don’t bother with Markelle Fultz at the moment – a bit of a surprise they didn’t include him in the trade, actually). They broke through last season with a 52-30 record and third seed finish, breezing past Miami in the first round of the playoffs before getting stumped in five games against the Boston Celtics.
LeBron James is gone from the East now so the throne is empty. Last season’s first seed, the Toronto Raptors, have upped their stakes already with the Kawhi Leonard trade and they look magnificent already. The Boston Celtics have struggled early by their own standards but they now have playoff pedigree under Brad Stevens and you know they’re a team built for the varied and subtle battles of the postseason. The Milwaukee Bucks have also taken huge strides, with Giannis Antetokounmpo looking like an MVP candidate under new coach Mike Budenholzer – they were the last team to lose in 2018-19. The throne is empty but there’s no shortage of challengers and if the 76ers were going to keep pace then they needed to do more than just bank on the natural progression of their two impending superstars.
But I’ve gotta say, I dunno if Jimmy Butler is an ideal fit for them. Somebody like Kemba Walker would’ve been much more of a flawless addition, somebody who could really compliment Embiid and Simmons while also covering for their weakness in shooting from range and their inexperience. Jimmy Butler should do both those things too… but he’s also been traded twice in a relatively short space of time on account of personality clashes so that’s not the best start.
Without a doubt he helps their shooting problems. He also immediately makes them a better defensive team. However it’s hard not to see the parallels between Butler linking with Wiggins and Towns and creating a nightmare of a times for everybody involved and him now turning up expected to be the final piece in the puzzle that includes Embiid and Simmons. Embiid and Simmons are much better players than their counterparts there. Towns is a superb offensive player, probably a shade better than Embiid in that regard (particularly with his jump shooting), but then Embiid is lightyears ahead in terms of defence so points to Joel there. As for Simmons and Wiggins there’s not even a debate… although Simmons does also have a proclivity towards missing field goal attempts. Philly have also had more than their share of locker room situations in recent years and not all of them will have gone away just because The Process is now stamped complete.
So fair to say there are question marks there, especially compared to the Raptors, Celtics and Bucks and where they’re all at. I’m convinced that the Sixers have improved… but I’m not convinced they’ve gained enough ground on that other trio and giving up what they did you’ve gotta think they’re now committed to giving Butler a big deal when he opts out in the offseason, meaning this big three is the Philly trio for the foreseeable future. Championship calibre? Not really sure about that one, mate. Although if it really is more about the money then Jimmy Butler is going to get paid now, so objective complete.
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