Things just got interesting in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and it came in the form of this year’s problem child: Jimmy Butler.
Jimmy Butler is now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers by way of trade.
The Minnesota Timberwolves sent Jimmy Butler and forward Justin Patton to the Sixers and in exchange the ‘Wolves received Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick. As a result, NBA twitter exploded. People were immediately talking about winners and losers of the trade (with the answer not being so black and white by the way) and others started to wonder about certain things that this trade could affect. Therefore, here are 5 things everyone is wondering about when it comes to this affectionately named, the Jimmy Butler trade.
- The Timberwolves could be the winners of this trade.
Admittedly, this point is a stretch but not a far stretch. Jimmy Butler is a top 10 talent in the league. To say Butler is an elite defender is an understatement. In addition, he is as good an offensive juggernaut as some of the best in the league not named Lebron, Harden, Davis or Westbrook. Also, it should be noted that the 76ers did not even have to give up a first rounder. However, he was clearly a negative presence for the ‘Wolves and was not going to make them better. It could be argued that Butler actually made them worse as his attitude was horrendous and lacked commitment to the Timberwolves franchise. Thus, the expectation was that Butler was going to be traded for way below market value and while the return was not astounding, Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden and Tom Thibodeau could have done much worse.
Covington is not the most aesthetically pleasing player in the world nor are his stats eye-popping but he can shoot the three really well, play defense at a solid rate and has shown improvements in his efficiency so far. Dario Saric is having a bit of a down year so far but if he can improve his performance, he can be a welcome addition to the ‘Wolves. But what makes both of these players good pickups are that both are under team control at affordable rates for 2+ years. This not only means that Covington and Saric can very well contribute to the Timberwolves but it allows Layden and Thibodeau some cap flexibility to sign who they would like to peruse. Also, yes Jimmy Butler’s cap hit this season is not that bad but Butler is an unrestricted free agent after this season and will demand a lot of money, which the Timberwolves could not pay him.
Also, from a chemistry perspective, the team might actually play as a unit better and who knows where this team goes especially since it still has some legitimate talent on the roster.
- The Dynamic between Embiid/ Simmons and Jimmy Butler could be amazing or disastrous.
Now is Butler a problem child at times? Yes. He has proven that when things go bad, he will act out which can prove to be horrible for the Sixers. With that being said, two things. First is that no one really does know where the disconnect between Jimmy Butler and the organization started. Furthermore, Butler could have been justified in being discontent. Granted, he went about it the hard way, but maybe there is more than the eyes can see. Secondly, there is some respectable and redeeming qualities that make him who he is. This is a guy who was at one point homeless as a child and had to scratch and claw his way to the NBA at every level of basketball he played at.
Then point that is trying to be made here is that Jimmy Butler does understand the concept of hard work, commitment, and has a warrior’s mentality that is somewhat admirable. Which means if the Sixers organization is good structurally and the players give it 110% in practice and games than Jimmy Butler might actually be a very good locker-room guy. The reason why this point matters this much is that from what is portrayed by the Sixers, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have similar alpha mentalities to Butler. While conventional wisdom would say three guys like this can be trouble, there is validity to the thought that if Brett Brown and company can direct that energy positively than look out. However, if they cannot, then this has the potential to be a train wreck. An entertaining train wreck, but a train wreck nonetheless.
- Sixers Place in The East.
Now if you were to ask the smartest NBA experts where they thought the 76ers would be in terms of the pecking order of the Eastern Conference, most would say second to third best. As of the time of this list coming out, the Sixers are fifth in the east behind teams like the Pacers. Not only that, the team has had some interestingly lop-sided losses against the big teams in the east. Now granted, the season is about as young as a third grader but the fact remains that the Sixers have underwhelmed so far. This might give the 76ers the boost they need and everyone thinks so. For example, Vegas had the Sixers odds to win the conference increase from 7-1 to 3-1; it’s hard to disagree with that as on paper, the Sixers are the most talented team in the Eastern Conference. It should also be said that Brett Brown is a good coach and can definitely get a competitive rest of the season out of this team. This means that not only are 76ers in positions to change their fortunes for this year, they could exceed everyone’s ‘second to third best team in the east’ expectation of them.
- Trades, Trades and more Trades… we think.
Now Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green getting traded to the Raptors was a big deal but this trade could potentially set off an arms race between the NBA top teams.
Think about it like this: let’s say that the Raptors and Sixers play again this year (which will happen) and the Sixers win or the Raptors squeak out a less than impressive victory, then does Masai Ujiri trade for someone to bolster the Raptors chances? Let us say he does then will Danny Ainge of the Celtics finally get rid of his numerous picks to do some damage on the trade block? Let us say he does then do the Warriors get crazy to try and shut the door on the NBA’s face? Also, what about the Bucks who have a legitimate shot at winning the East; will they try to add to their roster?
These are hypothetical questions that are reaching for excitement a little bit. Nevertheless, the point that’s being illustrated is that teams are going to want to keep up and might get desperate. Desperation is a funny thing in sports because it makes general managers take risks, especially around trade deadline time.
- Where does Butler sign after this Year?
Now if you were to ask me, the Sixers won this trade. With that being said, there are a lot of reasons that one could think of to suggest that the Sixers lost the trade. Some would argue the Sixers gave up too much. However, there are legitimate concerns and the most pressing is that Butler’s a pending free agent after this season. If he leaves then the Sixers are going to be significantly worse in comparison to their 2017-2018 team moving forward. Assuming Butler does not resign with the 76ers then no Butler, no Covington, and no Saric could spell trouble and it is all could be because of a lack of foresight.
Also, I can already hear people saying that are the Raptors doing the same thing with Kawhi Leonard and the answer to that is they are not doing the same thing. Not going to get too specific but the Raptors were going to be declining, turning over the roster drastically or rebuilding anyway whether the Raptors kept DeMar DeRozan or made the trade. In fact, the argument can be made that Kawhi Leonard’s addition makes it easier to rebuild and transition. That is not the case for the position of the 76ers.
The 76ers just came out of the ‘trust the process’ rebuild. The team was positioning themselves as an emerging team that way going to get better and Covington, as well as Saric, were key pieces to the team. They cannot afford to go into another rebuild and with this move they might have sealed their fate as there would not be enough talent for Simmons and Embiid to play with to keep the 76ers as a contender if Jimmy Butler were to sign somewhere else in free agency. Thus, the Sixers would be a middling team at best for the foreseeable future.
However, the operative word is if. Philadelphia does have the cap space to sign Jimmy Butler to a max deal and the crazy thing is if they are willing to pay luxury tax then the Sixers could still sign some good players with or without Butler resigning. Even still it will be interesting to see if Butler will sacrifice some money to go to a contender or will go to a team that will pay him the max and sacrifice some wins.