Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or so and decided Liberty Ballers would be the first website you check post-hibernation, you already know Jimmy Butler is a Philadelphia 76er. In his debut on Wednesday, he largely deferred to his new teammates and was discretionary when picking his spots, primarily finding scoring opportunities within the flow of the offense.
But against the Utah Jazz yesterday, he showed exactly why the Sixers acquired him. He was clearly a bigger part of the offensive game plan, and it paid dividends to the tune of 28 points (12-of-15 shooting, 2-of-3 from deep), seven assists, three rebounds, and two steals. Primarily operating on dribble handoffs and pick-and-rolls, Butler exhibited his diverse offensive arsenal by attacking the rim, threading jumpers off the bounce, and creating for others.
Similarly, he found success in the pick and roll. He was clearly a bigger focal point of the offense on Friday compared to his first game on Wednesday.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) November 17, 2018
Having a primary ball-handler who's a credible threat beyond the arc is going to help the Sixers offense immensely. pic.twitter.com/0c21DB2MZx
Thought this was the most important play of the game for Philly and Butler as it halted an 8-2 Jazz run late in the contest.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) November 17, 2018
Butler stops on a dime, rejects the screen, carves into the lane and finds Embiid on the opposite wing for a game-tying 3. pic.twitter.com/FkEHMDzB8C
On the other end, he hounded Donovan Mitchell all night. With Butler as the primary defender, the second-year guard converted just 5 of his 20 field goal attempts (8-of-15 against everyone else). Matchup data can be misleading because it assigns credit to the closest defender on the shot, but the tape highlights how successful Butler was defensively.
Now for the real fun. Butler hounded Mitchell last night, forcing him into uncomfortable shots. Having an elite on-ball defender is huge for the Sixers.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) November 17, 2018
Here, he navigates the screen, funnels Mitchell into Embiid and stays attached, creating a tough angle at the rim. pic.twitter.com/n1zWI5N1Z0
Again, Mitchell scores but that's a whole lot of work for a tough midrange jumper and the type of shot Philly encourages with its drop pick-and-roll coverage. pic.twitter.com/1QDIbmdwSj— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) November 17, 2018
Butler is a legitimate two-way star — defined as a player who makes a positive impact both offensively and defensively, per myself — and Friday’s contest was a perfect example. As the year progresses, tracking how he meshes with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is paramount — there’s been a bit of “your turn, my turn” feel to the dynamic so far — but there’s no denying Butler’s brilliance yesterday, easily asserting himself as the best player on the floor for the game.
*For additional video breakdown of Butler’s night, check out my Twitter Moment.*