It finally happened. The star-hunting promise we heard from Brett Brown during the Zhaire Smith press conference has been fulfilled and the Sixers have acquired Jimmy Butler along with Justin Patton in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and a second-round pick. In a trade that will change the course of the 76ers franchise for years to come, we say goodbye to two process legends and welcome in an All-NBA talent. Needless to say, there’s a lot to discuss.
Oh, and Markelle Fultz pump faked a free-throw, but we don’t need to talk about that.
Joining us today for this week’s edition of the Process Disciples are:
1. Describe your overall thoughts on the Jimmy Butler trade.
Rose: I wrote about my initial reaction in our Jimmy Butler trade roundtable and basically said that I thought from a pure talent standpoint, the deal was a no-brainer, but there are obviously ways where this deal backfires dramatically. I thought both teams could come out of this as winners because I think the Wolves got great value for a player that overstayed his welcome in Minnesota and would have left in free agency in the summer. Not much has changed in my original breakdown, but I will say one thing about this trade. This is one of the hardest trades to deal with emotionally I’ve ever faced in sports because of just how much Robert Covington and Dario Saric meant to the team and their unique stories.
RoCo coming out of nowhere from the D-League and surviving the gauntlet of rotating process players, joining TJ McConnell as the only two true process finds. Deadspin’s Tom Ley even wrote an article claiming that “Robert Covington is in Philly to help the Sixers lose.” How wrong he was. A player who was once deemed a joke ended up making first team All-Defense and becoming the primary piece in acquiring a superstar.
The Sixers acquired Dario in the ultimate Sam Hinkie move, where he held Elfrid Payton hostage (who the Magic really wanted) until Orlando caved and gave the Sixers back the first-round pick sent over in the Andrew Bynum trade, as well as Saric. Dario then gave up money to come over to the Sixers early despite the team not being very good and taking a risk because he wanted to keep a promise to the organization. These are two of my favorite players to ever put on a Sixers uniform and it hurts to see them go.
Mangigian: When I first saw the trade, the compensation was not made public. I was incredibly excited to get Jimmy Butler, but I didn’t know how to feel, because I didn’t know who we lost. Initially, I thought Markelle Fultz would be part of the compensation. Upon realizing we were losing Dario Saric and Robert Covington, it felt bittersweet. Dario and RoCo were parts of the “process,” and I had come to love them. At the end of the day, the Sixers traded role players for a star. I love the trade, I think both teams benefited. The Sixers got better, Minnesota got deeper. Jimmy is a DOG, and I love his attitude, I think he will fit perfectly in this city.
Fischbein: When I first heard the news of the trade being official, I was actually out of the country with my family and we all celebrated over getting a third star to add to the team. I will admit that I felt kind of sad to say goodbye to Dario and Covington, it was only because they were around for most of the bad process years and were awesome personality guys. In terms of talent and solely basketball, this trade was great. Trading a first round pick and/or Markelle Fultz on top of both of those guys seemed like a foregone conclusion if the Sixers were going to get Butler. However, Philly was able to keep the future assets and grab a star player in the process. Can’t be mad at that, not one bit.
2. What did you think about Butler’s first game as a Sixer against the Magic?
Rose: My expectations weren’t very high going into it, to be honest. I think people struggle to realize that NBA teams actually run plays quite often and don’t just freestyle like a pickup game, and with Butler having zero practices and one walk-through under his belt prior to his debut, I thought the lack of chemistry on offense would be apparent. Butler started hot but played the rest of the game like he didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and try and play hero ball, which I find actually quite reassuring because I got the vibe that he wanted to try and fit in with his teammates instead of having them try and fit his style. I hoped to see a little more iso-ball because the Sixers haven’t had any true iso threats in years, but I think that will develop into a real part of the gameplan once Brett Brown gets a feel for how to fit Butler into the scheme. Also, obviously it didn’t help this time, but I think Butler’s arrival will help slow down the second-half chokes the Sixers are becoming infamous for. Hopefully.
Mangigian: The Sixers have a completely new look. The Sixers now, aren’t who they were last week. Philly had to play a glorified game of pick-up basketball with Jimmy Butler still getting settled. I was not one of many fans overreacting to game one of the Jimmy Butler era. Once Butler gets fully integrated, the Sixers will be a force. Despite blowing massive leads constantly, the Sixers are a really good basketball team. Jimmy Butler adds killer instinct, and a work ethic that is unmatched. Don’t put too much stock into one game, there is a lot of basketball to play still.
Fischbein: It was very lackluster. Butler played well, but nothing to write home about. The team blew yet another lead and Ben Simmons still refuses to shoot while throwing hook shots that look like an awkward shot put. Let’s get back to Butler though. Butler’s defense was still prevalent and he was able to get himself a few buckets in the process. If he continues to gel with the team, then he’s going to be a deadly option outside of just Ben and Joel.
3. What is your favorite Robert Covington moment?
Rose: It might be recency bias, but the reaction to Covington coming out at the Rights to Ricky Sanchez lottery party this past summer was probably the highlight of his career for me. RoCo was coming off a horrible series against the Celtics and still agreed to come to the lottery party, and the overwhelmingly positive reaction he got from the crowd was unbelievable. The RTRS Podcast community might have been the only subsection of the Sixers fanbase to appreciate Covington as a player, seeing as he got booed at games for almost everything, so I bet it felt great for him to still be treated like a human being despite maybe the worst stretch of basketball he played in his career.
Mangigian: My favorite moment was RoCo’s game winner against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2016-2017 campaign. The Sixers were up three late in the game when Ricky Rubio drained a three that left the Philly crowd stunned. With 1.6 seconds to go, the Sixers got the ball to RoCo soaring in the paint and he finished with almost no time remaining. In a year with only 28 wins, and a fan base dying for a reason to cheer, RoCo gave us all a reason to cheer. Thank you, Robert Covington.
Fischbein: Wow, my favorite Covington moment… It’s hard to narrow it down to just one because I feel like Covington is a player that I fought for, non-stop, since day one. My favorite moment has to be when he was voted as First-Team All-Defense. All the hard work that got him from the G-League to First-Team All-Defense is tremendous, and I couldn’t be happier for him. If I had to choose a game though, it would be when he destroyed the Clippers for 31 points and hit the clutch dagger at the end.
4. What is your favorite Dario Saric moment?
Rose: Watching Dario arrive at the airport on an extremely janky live stream on the day he finally came over was priceless because it might be the moment that describes Sixers fans the best. After multiple years of putrid basketball, Sixers twitter was still so committed to the team that they were watching a draft stash walk through an airport on a random day in July. People really thought he was never coming over and to watch the exact moment he came over with a ton of other psychotic Sixers fans was a vindicating moment.
Mangigian: Not to piggyback on Eric’s point, but I have to say when Saric arrived at the airport. It was such a unique moment in Sixers history and really showed how desperate Sixers fans were to cheer about something. Dario Saric was supposedly going to be yet another bust for the 76ers. It felt like every year, the Sixers chose the wrong guy. Saric, like Embiid, was a gamble. I am so happy we took it. Dario was the beginning of many blessings for Philadelphia basketball, and I think I speak for all Sixers fans in saying: Thank you, Dario, we wish you all the success this world has to offer.
Fischbein: It’s not exactly one moment, but his “buddy cop movie” kind of relationship with TJ McConnell will always be favorite. The Sixers social media team even made little mini-movies with those two last season and it was the most amazing display of cinema ever. Yes, even better than Pulp Fiction and any other movie you could ever name.
5. The Sixers likely aren’t done making moves. Who do you THINK they will get? Who do you WANT them to get?
Rose: I think they’ll probably end up with Kyle Korver out of the buyout market just because the rumors are never-ending and it makes complete sense. Korver is out of the rotation in Cleveland and looks to be a buyout candidate seeing as he’s making 7.5m/year for two more years to do nothing, and the Sixers need a shooter to replace losing both Covington and Saric, so the fit is there. You wonder if the fit might be redundant with Redick and, to a lesser extent, Shamet playing the same role. As of late, Furkan Korkmaz has come into his own a little bit now that he’s finally getting minutes so the Korver fit is getting slightly murkier but I think it makes the most sense from a cost and fit perspective.
As far as want, I’m leading the Beal to Philly campaign. I have no idea what the Wizards would want in exchange for him, but seeing that team implode despite having two of the best guards in the game leads me to believe they need to change something. Any trade would likely have to include Fultz and the Heat’s first-rounder and probably, even more, depending on how the Wizards value those assets. With the Jimmy Butler acquisition, the Sixers’ championship window takes a bit of a hit and trading for Beal would be a surefire way to tell the league you’re going all in right now. It’s far-fetched, but the thought of that team forming is a dream scenario for an organization just four years removed from starting Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson, Chris Johnson, Henry Sims, and Nerlens Noel.
Mangigian: I want Kyle Korver back in Philadelphia. It has been too long since he has drained corner threes in Sixers blue. Korver’s game would fill nicely into the gap that Covington and Saric left, even if just in a bench capacity. Korver brings more shooting to a team that just unloaded two proficient three-point shooters. I do not think the Sixers are done making moves for this season, but I do think we are done making massive moves. While Butler isn’t in his early 20s, it is not 2018 or bust for the Sixers. I believe they are one large piece away from being a championship caliber team, and that could come from free agency next Summer. In the NBA, players move like musical chairs, you never really know who’s available. I think the rest of this season will be a resume to impress that final piece, to join Butler and the boys for a title run.
Fischbein: Shooters. Honestly, doesn’t really matter which ones either. As long as they can shoot and play at least an average level of defense in a high-switch style of defense, then the Sixers will have their eye on them.
Personally, I’ve been on the Klay Thompson or CJ McCollum train because I wasn’t exactly seeing Jimmy Butler in the team’s future. Plus, that could very well still happen. If the team doesn’t like the look of the roster with Jimmy Butler, then they have plenty of money to play around with in free agency and still have some assets with which they can throw together a decent trade package. Klay Thompson would be absolutely perfect for this team, but McCollum could also be big-time. In terms of a realistic target though, I think the team will bring in someone along the lines of Kyle Korver or Joe Harris.