Jimmy Butler

NBA Roundtable: Dissecting the Jimmy Butler trade

After a month-long saga with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jimmy Butler’s trade request was finally acknowledged, as the Minnesota Timberwolves sent the All-Star packing East to Philadelphia in a deal that landed them Robert Covington and Dario Saric. With Butler now set to recalibrate in Philly with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, several of our writers gathered for a roundtable discussion on the move. Our participants are:

1. What was your initial reaction to the Jimmy Butler trade, and grade the deal for both teams?

Rose: I was stunned that it came about so quick with no grumblings of it happening beforehand. Once I saw that the players involved were Robert Covington and Dario Saric, I automatically assumed either Philly’s first rounder or the Heat’s first rounder from the Mikal Bridges trade were going to be in it. As information kept dropping and it was known that the Sixers only lost a second-round pick and Jerryd Bayless, as well as taking back another player in Justin Patton, the trade seemed to keep getting better for Philly. I think this trade is a solid B+ with potential to be an A for Philly, but also with potential to be a D. There’s undoubtedly a ton of risk in this deal with Butler’s contract expiring after the season and the locker room issues he has created lately, but from a pure talent perspective, a player of his caliber is a no-brainer. I don’t think there’s a ton of risk for Minnesota and I think they deserve a B- for this deal. They got rid of the man who torched the locker room and got back one great piece in Covington and one solid piece in Saric. As I said, I was shocked that Minnesota didn’t get a first-rounder in return but clearly Butler’s trade value was irreparable.

Allan: This is the move that 76ers fans have been waiting for. The 76ers went into last summer hoping to make a splash with a big-named free agent and it didn’t happen, leaving people wondering if this team would be able to pull through with only the young talent and veterans tagging along with them. Now with Butler in the picture, it gives the Sixers a true leader who has been a known star in this league for a good few years now. They get Butler in his prime and it bodes well for the Sixers knowing Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have barely even crept into theirs. I would give the Sixers an A- for this deal as they didn’t give up a whole lot of assets, but Saric and Covington will surely be missed. For the Timberwolves I would give them a B because I think that if they did this trade with the Houston Rockets they would’ve probably gotten more in return.

Calpin: I was absolutely shocked. Waking up on Saturday morning without any real indications that this was even in the works… the news shocked me. Initially, I had to think that Markelle Fultz and/or a first round pick along with Saric was going to be involved. So on top of the news that we landed Jimmy Butler but we also get to keep the first round pick and Fultz, I was ecstatic. Obviously, there is the emotional turmoil that comes with departing from Covington and Saric but outside of losing two original Processors, I love the trade. It was obvious that Minnesota wanted to be able to compete this year and this trade will allow them to do that. With other options on the table such as the rumored four first-round picks from the Rockets makes me think they could have gotten more for future and for that reason I am going to give them a C on this trade. I am giving the Sixers an A-.

King: My initial reaction was to check my phone to check Joel Embiid’s Twitter page for a funny GIF or meme. In all seriousness, it was excitement from a fan perspective. The thought of him hitting the court with Simmons and Embiid got me amped to see them play together. The 76ers believed that they could get to the Finals last season but were just lacking that one other superstar to help their two young superstars and now they have that. With the fast start the Raptors got off to and then the expected dominance that the Celtics will most likely unleash at some point this season, the 76ers most likely felt the pressure to add that extra piece to put them over the top. My mind then raced to Minnesota and thinking about how relieved Towns and Wiggins must have been to see Butler leave. Minnesota – A-, Philadelphia – A

Kirkland: Philadelphia immediately gets better. The upside of having three top-25 players on one team cannot be understated. Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Jimmy Butler are three guys you can put out on a nightly basis knowing you have a shot to win against anyone. Philadelphia will be a spectacle to watch whether this move is a success or not. Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler are two strong personalities in one room. They will have to get along during success and rough patches. On Minnesota’s end, I found this move confusing considering that the Rockets offered four first-round picks just a week ago. To me, they lost leverage by being stubborn at the start and had to settle. Philadelphia – A Minnesota – C

2. With a new big-three of Butler, Embiid & Simmons, what is the 76ers’ ceiling in the Eastern Conference?

Rose: I think, clearly, their absolute ceiling is the No. 1 seed. Embiid is playing at an MVP level, Simmons is elite defensively and a creative genius on offense with one (albeit huge) weakness to his game, and Jimmy Butler is a killer on offense which the Sixers sorely missed in the playoffs, as well as being named to the All-NBA Defensive Team four times. The shooting takes a bit of a hit with Covington and Saric each shooting 39% last year and Butler only shooting 34% for his career, but adding an All-NBA shot creator and bringing JJ Redick back into the starting lineup gives Philly one of the best starting units in the league. Depth takes a hit, but with LeBron James out West and Boston struggling early, nothing is set in stone.

Allan: I think they can be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Embiid’s play so far this season has solidified him as the best center in the NBA, and he’s barged his way into the MVP conversation, whether fans like it or not. Ben Simmons remains a matchup nightmare and a two-way behemoth that’s a force to be dealt with regardless of his perimeter shooting woes, and Jimmy Butler serves the 76ers with a top-15 NBA talent that is capable of scoring on all levels. Philadelphia, as they currently stand, remains thin in terms of depth, but something tells me Elton Brand isn’t done dealing and will look to fully tighten Philly’s roster as the season rolls on.

Jimmy Butler

Photo via: Getty Images

Calpin: I think it should absolutely be making the NBA Finals. They should finish a top-three seed with Boston and Toronto in the mix, and now with the addition of Butler, I think that Philadelphia can compete with anyone outside of Golden State. I do believe they need to add another shooter from the outside but other than that, I believe they are in a really good spot.

King: NBA Finals appearance or bust. You don’t trade key players like Saric and Covington for a player that might bail in the offseason if you were not all in on this year. With the Celtics, Raptors, and Bucks being the primary competition in the East all of them contain one key factor which is elite perimeter players. For Boston, it is Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward. For Toronto, it is Kawhi Leonard. For Milwaukee, it is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Now with Butler, you have a player that can truly shut them down and leave Simmons and Embiid to work their magic and dominate their one-on-one match-ups. Philadelphia had the edge when it comes to their interior offense with Embiid and Simmons but now you have Butler, who gives them the edge on the perimeter on both defense and offense. Man, a defense of Simmons and Butler anchored by Embiid. Talk about scary.

Kirkland: If they mesh the way that the organization hopes, Jimmy Butler will be motivated and playing on the best roster he has ever been a part of. That is a scary sight offensively and defensively for an Eastern Conference that feels more like the Wild Wild West. The ceiling is an NBA Finals appearance. They have the top-end talent to compete with any team in the Eastern Conference. It is going to come down to a matter of how their talent comes together. The Raptors and Celtics hold the advantage of having more stable rosters and their teams have a deeper chemistry level. Philadelphia has battled injuries and now a major trade. If they can overcome those obstacles they’re as good as anyone on paper.

3. Do you still consider the Timberwolves to be a playoff team, and if so, where do they now rank in the West?

Rose: I have a hard time imagining the Timberwolves making the playoffs this season, and if they do, I’d worry about them getting caught in the middling purgatory we saw the pre-Process 76ers in for years. Karl-Anthony Towns is obviously unbelievable offensively, but his defensive deficiencies hamper that team a lot, and with Andrew Wiggins not developing into the player everyone thought he would, the top-end talent is not enough in such a star-heavy conference. Unless Derrick Rose is truly back to near-MVP level and Tom Thibodeau decides to stop running his players into the ground, then a bottom-four seed isn’t entirely out of the question. The West is currently at a point where the Lakers, Jazz, Pelicans, and Rockets are all currently out of the playoff picture and I just don’t see the Wolves without Butler having enough to beat out those teams. (By the way, Dario Saric plays overseas every summer and hasn’t taken a break from basketball in years and now he has to play with Thibs? He might die in front of our eyes.)

Allan: No I can’t see them being a playoff team right now, they are just not strong enough with the star power that they have on their roster. If they were in the Eastern Conference they definitely could have a chance to make the playoffs but I just think the Western Conference is too deep. They have a rejuvenated Derick Rose which is always fun to watch but to have him as your veteran leader is not going to get you far in the West. The focus for Minnesota should be still to figure out exactly who they have in Towns and Wiggins then see what type of player they can go after in free agency to put around them.

Calpin: I think it would be difficult for Minnesota to be a playoff team this year in the Western Conference. If they were in the East I think they would have a shot at the seven or eight seed but the West is just too stacked. You have to think that you are going to need to win 46-48 games to make the playoffs and I really don’t see them being much better than a .500 team at this time. They lost an All-Star in Jimmy Butler who is the best player on that team both defensively and offensively.

King: Yes, but as the Western Conferences eighth seed. You look at who they gave up with Butler and Justin Patton and a second-round pick, but you look at what they got in Robert Covington and Dario Saric they and I believe that they got better. Saric is more of the perimeter player who can float around the perimeter and open things up for Karl-Anthony Towns to operate and attack with free reign down low. And for as good as Butler is on defense, Covington can mask or fill the hole on that end of the floor that Butler leaves behind. They do not replace his scoring ability but the hope for Towns to be the face of the franchise is clearly evident and they will lean on him for the remainder of the season. The Western Conference is stacked, yes, but with Rose playing at the level he is, along with Towns and other contributors like Saric, Covington, and Teague then they should be able to compete on a nightly basis. No more locker room tension and with a 4-9 record, the only direction is up.

Kirkland: If Dario Saric can get his powers back the Timberwolves still have the talent to battle for a playoff berth at the back end of the Western Conference. If Derrick Rose can stay healthy he is obviously still a capable scorer in this league. Karl-Anthony Towns is still one of the league’s most offensively talented big men and Andrew Wiggins can fill it up as well. The question will be on defense for a team that has not shown the ability to defend at a high level during any of Tom Thibodeau’s years. Losing Jimmy Butler will show up defensively, and I think that will keep them out.

4. How do you think Butler’s personality will mesh with the Sixers’ young stars?

Jimmy Butler

Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

Rose: This is the million dollar question. Who knows? I think Butler will prefer the attitude and love for winning that Simmons and especially Embiid bring over Towns and Wiggins, and I also think Brett Brown will exhaust all of his resources into making sure that core doesn’t blow up. It seems to me like Jimmy is more than willing to take a backseat on a team as long as the team’s star player actually steps up and takes it, which KAT clearly didn’t do and Butler did not like that. With Embiid’s play and personality, I don’t expect them to clash as much as I once thought. I do worry about Butler bullying Fultz, though. I’m terrified for him, really. I’ll give at an 80% chance of working out, but you can’t rule out a disaster.

Allan: This is a tough question but I think that this will work out very well because of the mindset of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. I think Butler will truly realize how hungry these two young players are and it will be a fresh reminder that he is now on a team that is a lot closer to winning a championship than most would assume. I see him actually helping bring Markelle Fultz along because I think Fultz is going to learn a lot from Butler and see what he is able to take from his game and put into his own.

Calpin: Man, if only we could see into the future because this is the question that matters the most. This is too steep of a rental price for Butler to only be here for one year. You really hope that he buys into Brett Brown, the culture of Philadelphia and the team and of course you hope he meshes well with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. I can see him really loving everything that Philadelphia has to offer but I also could see him wanting to be in LA or NY under the brightest lights.

King: Butler will always be the fiercest player on the court regardless of who his teammates are, but fortunately for him, he has players like Simmons and Embiid who are just as hungry for success as he is. I believe that his personality will be welcomed and appreciated by his teammates along with the Philly faithful. With Fultz, he never had that veteran on his side, maybe J.J Reddick, who has been able to truly challenge him to become a better player. Butler only enhances this team’s competitive edge and even if he does not return next year, the impact that he will leave on the young players will pay huge dividends.

Kirkland: Jimmy Butler has to demonstrate an ability to deal with teammates that are either less talented or don’t work as hard. I think Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will get along with him just fine, but every team has guys that don’t give it 150% day-in and day-out. Having a presence like Butler can be troublesome for guys like Markelle Fultz who are still working on establishing their careers and reputations. How well the entire 76ers roster responds to Jimmy’s intensity will be an interesting case study.

5. True or False: Jimmy Butler will be signing a long-term deal with the Sixers this summer.

Rose: True. The 76ers’ ownership is horrified of admitting a sunk-cost (see: Jahlil Okafor) and will not let a top-25 NBA player walk after less than one season. If Butler isn’t a 76er next year, I’d wager he made that choice himself and it wasn’t due to lack of trying by the 76ers.

Allan: True. As Woj said, that was the full intention long-term from this trade. Unless a disaster happens, I think that Butler will enjoy his time here for the rest of the season because he’ll see and feel the passion of Philadelphia fans, especially come playoff time, and realize that it is such a great basketball city to be in. He has an opportunity to grow alongside two of the best young players in the league, which doesn’t happen very often.

Calpin: True. As the guys said, I think they have some indication that he plans on signing a long-term deal after this year or they wouldn’t have done the deal at all in general. The 76ers have two of the best young players in the league and he can win and compete for a championship which is what he wanted the most.

King: False, even as Kyle said regarding the Woj bomb, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say that he doesn’t. While Philadelphia does provide Butler the easiest path to the Finals, I believe that he will entertain other teams when he hits free agency as he has not been a free-agent throughout his career. The way this season goes will play a huge factor in whether or not he has several teams vying for his services.

Kirkland: True. Jimmy Butler just got acquired for a marginal loss from Philadelphia. It has become clear that his value may not be as high as most expected due to the nature of his personality. At the minimum, the 76ers are an Eastern Conference Finals contending team with youth and strong management. There are very few situations like that throughout the league and Butler knows it. If the 76ers make a playoff run and flirt with the Conference Finals he will stay.

Bonus: Markelle Fultz’s future in Philadelphia is now…

Jimmy Butler

Photo via: Getty Images

Rose: On a plane to Washington, sitting alongside the Miami 2021 pick in exchange for Bradley Beal. A man can dream, right? I haven’t given up on Fultz as a player and want him to succeed more than I want myself to succeed, but can you imagine Simmons/Beal/Butler/???/Embiid? Throw me in at the four and we’re still catching that home-court advantage.

Allan: Completely uncertain. It is tough to see where he can really fit in with this team unless he is able to become a knockdown shooter some day. His game, if he develops a jump shot, is very similar to Butler’s in a way, so that will be interesting to see if it can mesh. I think Fultz does not have a whole lot more he can do to control his future in Philly.

Calpin: Still in question. I really do still have faith in his ability to become the player the Sixers thought they were drafting, but, if he doesn’t start to figure out a way to get his shooting stroke back he really doesn’t fit in the system Philadelphia needs him for. I really do hope that he can piece it all together though because he wants to be successful.

King: Unwavered. Yes, the acquisition of Butler was most likely a move to get a scoring guard/forward, something they had hoped for when they took Fultz No. 1 overall. However, Fultz still has time to contribute and grow as a player under or with Butler. Whether it is off the bench in place of Butler or alongside him on the court. Nobody has worked harder to make himself into a superstar than Butler and if Fultz can pick his brain and be a sponge than Fultz himself can overcome his early career struggles.

Kirkland: Still important. Markelle Fultz was potentially going to be that third scorer for Philly, who may lose Butler this offseason if things don’t go well. I just question how many minutes will be left for Fultz in the rotation with Jimmy likely to start and JJ Redick still needing minutes. TJ McConnell will likely be in the mix as well so it may be tough for  Markelle to find minutes. The 76ers were clearly committed to taking a good look at Fultz to see if he could develop into the elite scorer that we have seen flashes of in his young career. We have not seen the last of him.

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