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Post-Jimmy Butler, Elton Brand needs to build a complementary supporting cast

Elton Brand bolstered Philadelphia’s offense by landing his white whale talent. What comes next?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Media Day Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Elton Brand accelerated the Sixers’ title contender status Saturday, acquiring disgruntled superstar Jimmy Butler and center Justin Patton from Minnesota in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.

The wing’s arrival provides an immediate boost to a Sixers team who struggled with shot creation, and a go-to option alongside superstar center, Joel Embiid. According to Cleaning the Glass, Butler only has 53 percent of his threes coming from assists (95th percentile among wings), four percent from mid-range (92nd percentile), and 55 percent from shots at the rim (58th percentile).

Butler isn’t a sizable defensive downgrade from now-departed wing Robert Covington, either. The newest Sixer, through 11 games, placed third on Minnesota’s roster in defensive plus-minus with a 0.5 DBPM. He also ranked in the 81st percentile among wings in block percentage, and 97th percentile in steal percentage, per Cleaning the Glass.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski highlights the Sixers’ intent to max Butler in this upcoming offseason, as the 29-year-old wing will join Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz in the City of Brotherly Love.

With Butler in the fold, ESPN cap guru Bobby Marks acknowledged Philadelphia’s ability to open up an additional max spot if Brand deals Fultz and renounces many of their 2019 free agents’ rights. Brand’s monumental decision whether to cultivate Fultz or roll the dice in free agency looms, but he’s also tasked with filling out Philadelphia’s rotation. Bradley Beal is an obvious candidate if they aspire to acquire another max-level talent through trade. Washington’s ghastly start might be a prelude towards a deal.

Through free agency, the draft, and trades, Brand has outlets through which to piece together a rotation to replace the Warriors’ dynasty. Their crown jewel among draft assets, Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick, can be a coveted trade chip in potential deals or an avenue for Philadelphia to add another cheap young talent. (I’d probably guess the former between those scenarios, though.)

Philadelphia’s 2018 first round pick duo Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet could either be essential rotational cogs or assets. Smith and Shamet’s rookie scale contracts are very conducive towards Philadelphia’s current and future cap room. Shamet is already a key reserve guard in Brett Brown’s lineup and his potential trends upwards with each positive outing.

Among all wings, Shamet ranks in the 82nd percentile (71 percent) in efficiency from shots at the rim and the 66th percentile (39 percent) from three - courtesy of Cleaning the Glass. Under JJ Redick’s tutelage, Shamet is primed to be in Redick’s archetype as a shooter and has some passing upside as well.

Smith’s recent setback in his injury rehabilitation process delays his professional debut, but Brett Brown’s affinity for Smith following this past draft is warranted - given Smith’s talent and upside.

Jonah Bolden received first quarter minutes against Charlotte last night, but hasn’t been assigned consistent impactful minutes in Philadelphia’s rotation. With Saric’s departure, maybe Bolden’s playing time receives a jolt. He’s still an offensive project, but Bolden’s two-way potential is undeniable.

Philadelphia also still has seven second round picks and all of their own, barring a Kings run that defies expectations, to translate into depth or trades. The Golden State Warriors’ formula supports using some of your picks as depth. Both Damian Jones and Kevon Looney were late first round picks, while Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw, who’s currently a free agent, had their draft rights purchased.

Toronto selected Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby in back-to-back drafts when picking in the 20s. There’s evidence suggesting selecting players and properly developing them can translate into essential depth.

Free agency offers Philadelphia an added bonus, with a roster structured for a potential long-term championship window providing an attractive destination for role players. In conjunction with trades, having a truckload of draft capital naturally boosts their viability in acquiring who Brand and Co. desire throughout the league.

Jimmy Butler’s acquisition marks the beginning of a new Sixers era. To maximize its potential, Brand’s ability to find quality supporting players will be a crucial component in this exciting process.

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