Jimmy Butler made his debut last night in a Sixers’ loss to the Orlando Magic. The Magic were able to capitalize on a 21-0 run, vaulting themselves into pole position, and the Sixers weren’t ever able to counter with a run of similar proportions. Despite the loss, yesterday evening’s game was exciting — maybe the most exciting of the season. And that’s because of Mr. Butler. Butler carries with him a certain swagger and presence that makes a basketball game more compelling.
Butler’s first game in the red, white and blue wasn’t anything spectacular. The casual fan just popping in for one of the first times all year may even have called Butler’s night a disappointment. But the truth of the matter is that there will be an adjustment period before Butler and his new teammates can play efficiently and to their full potential together. Until we have a handful of Sixers games to analyze Jimmy Butler’s impact, let us breakdown his very first.
But first, the things that matter
Omg this moment between Jimmy and TJ pic.twitter.com/tajaOwWRIn— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) November 15, 2018
When those two fists touched, vibrations ran through my body and I felt a tingling in my fingers.
Jimmy Butler will provide the Sixers many things, but perhaps chief among them is scoring. Against the Magic, Butler went 6 for 12 from the floor (0-1 from 3PT, 2-2 from the line) totaling 14 points in 33 minutes.
Butler and Joel Embiid working the two-man game is the stuff fantasies are made of. Butler easily burns Evan Fournier on a jab step and then cut to the basket, and Embiid makes a pretty feed. But the most encouraging part of the above sequence is Butler’s ability to make a tough shot through contact. Jimmy can make those sorts of physical drives night in and night out.
By the way, the Embiid/Butler pairing isn’t tantalizing only on offense:
imagine getting a pick when Jimmy Butler is guarding you only to see Joel Embiid switching pic.twitter.com/nrwnYbkYy0— georgey (@georgeythegreek) November 15, 2018
Really not much to see here. Even Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot or Justin Anderson finishes that play... right?
The above play is an example of what any Sixers fan can appreciate about Butler’s presence. That was a broken play, thanks mostly to the fact that Landry Shamet (and maybe Amir Johnson) should have put a shot up but refused to. With the shot clock winding down, Amir kicks out to Butler who puts the ball on the floor and gets a shot to fall. Before the trade, the Sixers had no one outside of Embiid who provided a failsafe in the event of a thwarted play design.
A Welcome Miss
On the next play, Butler will ultimately miss the attempt. But it’s a showing of Butler’s willingness to drive, and a shot we can typically expect him to make:
It seems like Butler got a little caught off guard by how slow the Magic defense’s rotation was, causing him to double-clutch the finger roll and release the ball at a very low point. But Jimmy makes those takes 90 times out of 100.
The Only 3PT Attempt
Butler took one 3PT shot, which came after a Joel Embiid handoff, but it fell a little short and rimmed out:
It Doesn’t Get Any Easier
Check out how dismissive Butler is of D.J. Augustin:
More Finishing Through Contact
Mad love for Robert Covington aside, these are the sorts of plays we always wanted more of from Covington.
Drive and Dunk
Butler missed his next two shots that came after the above play and before the below clip — both forced mid-range jumpers. But just when you thought Jimmy should maybe settle down a bit, he goes and does this:
The Sixers just don’t have another player on their roster that will make that sort of play on a regular basis. Ben Simmons is capable, but he’s not yet consistently aggressive enough. (Also Ben needs to become more aware of his footwork. Maybe Butler can help.)
Butler would go on to miss his final two shot attempts. One was a jumper just above the left elbow following an Embiid handoff. The next was a corner three off an inbound pass as time was expiring and a Sixers loss was becoming certain.
How about some drive-and-kick action?
Butler had two assists of the night. Neither assist was flashy, but here Butler begins to drive, and keeping his head up, finds Mike Muscala for a wide open three:
Jimmy Butler’s First Sixers Boxscore
Again, nothing spectacular from Butler’s first game. But we’re already seeing what makes him such a good get for the Sixers; he fills so many needs. He’s always willing to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim, embracing contact. His opportunistic cutting will pair well with not only Simmons, but Embiid as well. And as George Kondoleon (@georgeythegreek) already alluded to, Butler’s defensive impact on top of an anchor like Joel will give opponents nightmares.