Jimmy Butler and the 76ers: A Match Made In Heaven
All it takes is one tweet from Shams Charania to shift the landscape of the NBA. In less than 60 characters, the news was out: Jimmy Butler was a Philadelphia 76er. That trade also saw Robert Covington and Dario Saric become the newest members of the Timber-Pups along with the corpse of Jerryd Bayless.
Butler encapsulates everything the Sixers were seeking; three level scoring, elite defense and the “if he wasn’t on your team, you would hate him” attitude that lights a fire redder than Carson Wentz’s hair under Philadelphia fans. Butler has already played 7 games with the ball club, so let’s overreact and underreact to a small sample size in a fashion only sports fans know how.
Butler’s entrance saw the relief of Markelle Fultz from his starting duties. That has led to a whole new can of worms in itself but that’s a depressing tale for another day. The new lineup features Wilson Chandler and JJ Redick flanking the big three of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler. The lineup has offered some semblance of switching that the Sixers were accustomed to with Covington on the club. Jimmy has essentially been a rich-man’s Covington on both sides of the ball, making up for the struggles Covington saw with one on one defense and 3 level shot creation. Because of this, the Sixers finally have a release valve on offense to bail them out at the end of games that had been foreign to them for what felt like decades. Jimmy can get his own shot anytime, in any scenario – just ask the Nets and the Hornets.
Jimmy’s integration into the team has seen its share of road bumps so far, but that is to be expected. However, there are some small trends in the way Brett Brown and his staff are using the versatile wing that may become an issue should they continue. Jimmy Butler is a scorer and looks for his shot primarily in pick and roll, mid post up and isolation. These three fashions of offense, ironically, are largely left untapped in regard to the motion offense the Sixers have become familiarized with. The offense is centered on JJ Redick and his off ball movement and Joel Embiid post ups and pick and pops.
Since Butler’s arrival, the offense has largely remained the same failing to feature the benefits that Mr. James G. Buckets offers. His nickname wasn’t given without reason and because of that, Brett Brown will have to go back to the drawing board and show some creativity to get his new star involved. More middle pick and rolls between Embiid and Butler and mid post isolations will add dimensions to the team’s offense that will open up other avenues for all parties involved. The Sixers should seek to stagger Simmons’ and Butler’s minutes so that the Sixers will always have a dynamic playmaker on the floor. This will also allow more opportunities for Butler and Embiid to run a two-man game while surrounded by shooters. Have fun with that, NBA.
For all the internal improvement needed, external improvement may be paramount for the new look 76ers. The team, as currently constructed, may not be the best complimenting the new star studded trio. The Sixers have shown a proclivity to in-season trades by acquiring Butler in the early season. They should continue wheeling and dealing and looking to add talent, defense, and shooting to maximize this group.
Some names thrown around are Kyle Korver from Cleveland, Trevor Ariza from Phoenix and a few other wings that are no stranger to the three-ball. Instead of exhausting assets to acquire these aging vets on short term deals, they should wait out most of the season until the buyout market spices up where these players may be prime candidates. The Sixers can offer their $4.5 million mid-level exception and a rotation spot on a contender which is a high bar to beat. In terms of trades, the Sixers should look at what returns can be had for Furkan Korkmaz and possibly Markelle Fultz in order to add more shooting and length around Embiid, Butler and Simmons.
The Sixers truly rolled the dice when trading for Butler. The star could leave after this season, destroy the comradery of a stable locker room or lose the season to injury. In the same vein, the Sixers could be playing deep into May and June on the backs of three top 30 NBA talents. In the NBA, complacency is the antithesis to success and this shows that the Sixers are all in for whatever it takes to build a championship roster. Now it’s time for Jimmy G. Buckets to go get buckets.