Jimmy Butler: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

With Jimmy Butler set to lace up and take the hardwood for the first time as a Philadelphia 76er, the Sixers seem to have finally landed the third star they so desperately have been chasing. Teaming up with young phenom Ben Simmons and the Cameroonian Nightmare, Joel Embiid, Butler and the Sixers’ championship chances immediately skyrocketed. But even so, what kind of chance do they have?

There’s no doubt that Jimmy Butler is a phenomenal player. There’s no doubt that he makes the Sixers a better basketball team. But is his baggage worth it? And more importantly, is the timing right?

The Good

The good news is, the Sixers just got a lot better. Sure, it stings seeing two of our most beloved athletes get shipped off to the blistering tundra of Minnesota. Dario Saric and Robert Covington were everything the Process was supposed to be about: a shot in the dark to develop raw, young talent. They embodied the Process and embodied the city. But. And that’s a big but. Jimmy Butler is an All-Star and All-Defensive bully. His intensity on the court and ability to get buckets on his own are two things Covington and Saric never really brought to the table.

The fit is going to be weird. The spacing is going to be weird. Without Covington and Saric, the Sixers effectively have two players who can hit threes at a high clip: JJ Redick and rookie Landry Shamet. It is going to take some time to figure out how Simmons, Embiid, and Butler will play together, but these three guys are good enough, and smart enough, to figure it out eventually.

The Sixers are in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, and now they have three of the top seven players in the East. Realistically, they look like a top 5 team in the NBA and have a shot to compete for the first seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Bad

Jimmy Butler comes with some baggage… but we already knew this didn’t we? Of course by now everyone knows he wanted out of Minnesota because of tensions in the locker room, but this isn’t the first time we have heard something like this. Even in his days in Chicago, Butler complained about head coach Fred Hoidberg and had grievances with his teammates in the Windy City.

There’s a very real chance Jimmy Butler comes to Philadelphia and brings his problems with him. Whether it’s complaining to Ben about passing up an open look or Markelle Fultz jitters, Butler has the potential to pit the whole band against each other, just like he did in Minnesota.

But.

It’s possible, and more likely, that Butler’s grievances come from being surrounded by “less-than-championship” talent for his entire career. By the time he took over as the Bulls top player, the organization could never give him more than aging Pau Gasol and Dwayne Wade. Things were supposed to be different with the Wolves. Karl Anthony-Towns looked like a generational talent, and with Butler’s help, Andrew Wiggins could develop into one of the most terrifying wing scorers and defenders. But the Wolves’ youth proved to be too immature for Jimmy. KAT and Wiggins simply have the “dog” in them that it takes to be great. They were satisfied with just being good and didn’t put the time and effort in to succeed. In other words, they were more focused on their own achievements rather than their team’s achievements.

While there is still the possibility things go wrong in Philadelphia, there is hope. Butler is going to find a warm welcome to one of the hardest working players in the league in Joel Embiid, one of the most unselfish players in the league in Ben Simmons, and of course one of the easiest coaches to talk to in the NBA in Brett Brown. There is a sense of urgency to win in Philadelphia right now, and I think Butler is going to enjoy the ride.

The Ugly

Well, we talked about his locker room baggage, along with the departures of Dario and Covington, so what could possibly be the ugly?

Timing.

Quite frankly, this trade has panic written all over it. Wanting to make a name for himself, newly named GM, Elton Brand, pulled a quick trigger to make his first major move. And unfortunately, he was looking way to short-sightedly.

Today’s NBA is dominated by one team, and one team only. Everyone knows it, and everyone knows that if that team stays healthy, they will win the Championship.

We all know who I’m talking about.

The Warriors current dominance makes any attempt to win a championship this year almost futile. No team can compete with 3 top 10 caliber players (Demarcus Cousins when healthy) and probably the two greatest role players of all time in Klay and Dray. For as long as Kevin Durant stays in Golden State, the Warriors are set up to dominate for the next few years until age catches up with them.

While the media is having a frenzy over Draymond and Durant’s feud, it’s reckless to say Durant is going to leave Golden State this year. Sure, there have been talks of it before the season ever started, but it was all rumors. The point is people fight, teammates disagree, and egos collide. One disagreement over one regular season game barely seems like enough to break up a team that just won back-to-back championships and is well on their way to win their third in a row.

So why does any of this matter? Well Jimmy Butler is 29 years old. Compared to Embiid (24) and Simmons (22), the Sixers third star is… well… old. Assuming the Sixers re-sign him, as both parties have been reported to be interested in reaching an agreement, Butler has maybe three or four years left of prime basketball, as we see many stars take steep drops once they hit their early 30’s. This gives the Sixers an incredibly tight window to go all in for a Championship, all while during the dynasty of the most talented team of all time.

We put all of our chips into Butler. Dario Saric and Robert Covington were two of the last three high-trade-value assets we had (2021 MIA First Round Pick being the third). If Butler can not deliver, we effectively ended The Process before we could reap its benefits. Sure, our championship chances are considerably higher for the next few seasons, but are we going to win one? Can the likes of Simmons, Embiid, and Butler compete with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and the Warriors? If you’re asking me, I’m skeptical. It won’t happen this year, and it probably won’t happen next year. The year after? Maybe, but I’m not convinced. And then, by the time Simmons and Embiid are hitting their peaks, Butler will be 32 or 33 and assumably be a far inferior version of his current self. Drafting Markelle Fultz was supposed to give the Sixers three young stars that could grow and dominate together for upwards of a decade. But with Markelle’s struggles and Butler’s age, our window effectively decreases from ten to four.

I’m just as excited to watch Butler in the Rocky sweatsuit jerseys as anyone else, but I am just not sure how well this move fits with our plans moving on in the future.

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