Process Disciples: Changing Expectations and Butler’s Future

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The Sixers might be the biggest anomaly in the NBA right now. From losing games to Washington and Atlanta, having people wonder if this is the end of the Jimmy Butler experiment, to blowing out the Timberwolves by 42 and following it up with a 24-point win against a very good Pacers team. We’re not even sure if the Sixers know who they are as a team.

We adjust our playoff expectations accordingly, discuss the Butler trade in hindsight and whether or not we expect him to be in Philadelphia next season, talk some trade rumors, and preview this very difficult upcoming stretch.

This week’s contributors are:


1. Has the team’s recent play put a damper on your playoff expectations?

Mangigian: I’m not going to lie, when Jimmy Butler was initially traded to Philadelphia it felt like a move that could get us past the second round. Now, I am not so sure. The 76ers lack depth, particularly scoring depth. Their recent play feels like the foreshadowing of a second-round exit, like last season, which is disappointing.

Anderson: Yes, sadly. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the playoffs because even with Jimmy Butler, they still struggle and it shows. If they want to get over the hump, they have to get it together because it’s almost All-Star break and after that, the season just flies by. Their recent play can be an example of what’s on their horizon come playoff time.

Calpin: I am so tired of the exaggeration of the Sixers’ play recently. Since the Christmas Day loss to the Celtics, they are 8-3. One of the three losses Embiid was resting due to an injury. Jimmy Butler had a conversation with Brett Brown regarding a plan to get him more involved in the offense and all of the sudden the Sixers’ locker room is in rambles and the three guys can’t play together? Let’s put it to bed right now. Anytime there are three superstar talents on one team it will take some time to mesh and figure out how to work together and realistically I think the Sixers are doing a pretty good job at doing that.

Rose: While Ryan is right about their record actually being pretty good recently, the eye test just doesn’t seem to pass with this team. In fact, I have genuinely no idea what this team is right now when I’m watching them. How do you lose back-to-back games against the Hawks and Wizards and then come back with two huge victories against the Wolves and Pacers? The bench is horrible, Joel Embiid is hurt and tired, Butler may have stopped shooting threes to spite Brett Brown… but they just keep winning? I don’t think they’ve put a damper on my expectations – I think they have just removed all of my expectations.


2. Knowing everything you know now, would you undo the Jimmy Butler trade?

Mangigian: I do not regret the trade for Jimmy Butler. The 76ers clearly lost some valuable pieces from the wing, but what we got back should outweigh those losses. The only regret I would have with this trade is if Butler does not come back next second. I really miss Dario Saric, and definitely miss Robert Covington’s perimeter defense, however. What the 76ers lost, is much easier to regain than it would the loss of Butler, a core piece.

Anderson: No, I wouldn’t undo it. Jimmy Butler is still a very aggressive player that can impact this team when it comes to the playoffs. Despite if he leaves next season or not, it was still a good choice to add him to the roster this year and see what he brings to this organization. If the Sixers can make it past the second round in the NBA playoffs, I would say it was worth the trade.

Calpin: No I would not undo the trade. I would definitely tread lightly in terms of decisions after the season. But the trade this season was perfect for what they needed; a chance to compete for the NBA Finals. I believe that Jimmy Butler still brings that.

Rose: I don’t blame the team for trying it, but honestly, I think I would. I’m just not convinced the trade moved the needle that much because the bench is so bad that not even Butler can make up for it and they will struggle a lot against playoff teams. We also lost Robert Covington’s extremely valuable contract to use in a potential trade for a long-term option, and most importantly, I’m not sure that Butler will be a Sixer next season. In hindsight, I think the Sixers would have been better off offering the same package with anything besides Ben and Joel to get a long-term asset like a Bradley Beal or even a Josh Richardson. Right now, I’m leaning yes.


3. Do you expect to see Jimmy Butler in a Sixers jersey next season?

Mangigian: As of now, I fully expect Jimmy Butler to be in a 76ers jersey next season. I fully understand that there is a chance that Butler does not stay, but I feel the decision will largely be affected by their playoff success this season. If the 76ers achieve enough in Butler’s eyes to convince him that they are just one piece away, I do not think Butler leaves. However, if there is an ugly playoff series with a top eastern team, it might mean Butler will pursue other options.

Anderson: I want to see him in a Sixers jersey, but I don’t think he will be in one. If he wants to play for a certain organization, we know he’s not afraid to speak up and say what’s truthful about situations. Butler wouldn’t mind playing in LA for the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and with him saying that, that already gives me doubt for the Sixers next year. We won’t see him in Philly after this season.

Calpin: I don’t think that he will be in a 76ers jersey. I also am not sure how I will feel about that. Between the three of them, I would love for the Sixers to find a way to have Embiid and Simmons there for the next decade. Embiid, many believe will be there long term and I know there are doubts about how long Simmons will last in Philadelphia. At the end of the day Butler is at the peak, if not coming down from the peak of his playing level. I would be okay with letting him walk away and playing in LA with another star.

Rose: No I don’t and that’s why I answered the last question the way I did. I’m expecting to see Jimmy Butler in a different jersey and like Ryan said, with Butler turning 30 at the start of next season, it might not the worst thing. I’m not really interested in giving a player that old a max contract that will expire past his prime because if Butler’s play gets worse, the team has to rely on nailing every draft pick and free agent signing to balance it out. The Sixers haven’t done either recently, so giving Ben and Joel an aging player and a bunch of mediocre role players destroys the timeline, making Butler leaving possibly the best case scenario in the long-run.


4. There was rumored to be interest in Noah Vonleh which the Sixers (of course) declined. Do you think the Sixers should go after him?

Mangigian: Noah Vonleh feels like a guy who could help the 76ers immediately with depth at power forward. I think it could be worth looking into, especially with Vonleh shooting 41% from three. Vonleh also offers some defensive ability on the other end and being 6’9” helps. His deal with the Knicks is under two million and is up this year. If the 76ers wanted Vonleh, it would not take much to do it. I would make the move.

Anderson: Yeah, why not? The Sixers are still looking for pieces to fill the holes in the franchise. Noah Vonleh isn’t an All-Star guy, but he would be a nice asset to the team coming off the bench. Vonleh has a big body presence and can mainly help the Sixers on the defensive end. Go for it.

Calpin: As the guys said above, why not? It is obvious they need depth at the power forward position and I am sure they wouldn’t need to give up too much to get Vonleh. He is having a career year and I think adds depth to the Sixers bench. Anytime you can get a young player at a cheap price on the upward trend in his career, why not?

Rose: I would love to have Noah Vonleh on the Sixers any day, but the asking price worries me. He has had a great year and considering the Sixers have no players that the Sixers are willing to give up and other teams want, I’m assuming the Knicks would want a first-rounder. I’d be more willing to part with that pick if Vonleh was locked up long term, but with his contract up after this season, it becomes a tougher decision. For the right price, obviously, but I don’t expect that right price to be available for the Sixers. Getting a couple players like Dedmon and Lin in the buyout market instead of forking up a pick for Vonleh might be a smarter move long-term and depth-wise.


5. The Sixers won their first game of a very difficult 12 game stretch. Predict their record in this stretch.

Mangigian: I think a realistic goal to set would be winning eight of twelve games. It will not be easy, but the 76ers have to come together and gut out some big wins to keep up with the rest of the top teams in the east. I would ecstatic with nine wins, but would not be shocked if it is more like six wins six losses in the next 12. The next stretch will change this team, the question is, for better or worse.

Anderson: It’s tough to determine because they are very streaky. Currently sitting at a three-game win streak, they have three straight home games that they can steal early in this 12 game stretch. I think they will have to at least win seven of the 12 next games to be getting back on track of things in Philly.

Calpin: It is the toughest stretch for the Sixers by far this year and I think it is going to be really good for them. I am hoping that Embiid can stay healthy for most of the trip because I think that dictates the record severely. But with a win in the first game, I am saying that they finish the 12-game stretch at an 8-4 record contingent on Embiid playing at least 10 of the 12 games.

Rose: If the Sixers come away from this stretch winning at least nine games, render all of my responses from this roundtable useless because clearly, something clicked along the way. This stretch is ridiculous, with two Denver games, the Warriors with Boogie, a date with James Harden, and a Boston game that is borderline a guaranteed L. I’m expecting six or seven wins, and anything more or less will give us great insight of what the expectations should be moving forward.

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