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By The Numbers: How the Sixers’ offense has changed since acquiring Jimmy Butler

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NBA: New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a little over two weeks since the Sixers officially acquired Jimmy Butler. Butler has now played in 8 games for Philly, and although he’s still adjusting to his new squad as Brett Brown perfects the formula, Jimmy Buckets has already made his impact. It’s not just step-back, game-winning threes that are new to Sixers fans. With the arrival of an efficient, high-usage, star two-way wing (my lord, the Sixers actually have one of those), major changes are afoot.

Before we dive in, let’s consider the player turnover that has occured since November 12th. The Sixers did not only add Jimmy Butler into their rotation; they also subtracted Dario Saric and Robert Covington from it. It doesn’t stop there. Markelle Fultz is out indefinitely as he seeks (or doesn’t seek) the solution to an injury he does (or doesn’t) have; he’s played in just 4 games since Butler joined the rotation. Wilson Chandler has played in every game with Butler, after playing in only four of the first 15 games.

Now, on to the numbers.

Minutes

MPG & Games Played Pre- & Post-trade

Player MPG Pre-trade MPG Post-trade G Pre-trade G Post-trade
Player MPG Pre-trade MPG Post-trade G Pre-trade G Post-trade
A. Johnson 10.2 10.1 15 7
J. Redick 31.1 30.7 15 8
J. Embiid 35.1 33.7 15 8
L. Shamet 21.6 20.4 15 8
M. Fultz 24.4 15.3 15 4
B. Simmons 32.5 34.2 14 8
D. Saric 30.5 N/A 13 N/A
R. Covington 33.8 N/A 13 N/A
T. McConnell 14.7 16.3 12 5
M. Muscala 21.4 24.9 9 8
F. Korkmaz 9.4 13.1 8 7
W. Chandler 16 26.7 4 8
J. Butler N/A 33.8 N/A 8

Observations

  • In an indirect way, Butler’s addition seems to have affected Markelle Fultz more than anyone else, and the rest of the changes stem from there. Remember that Fultz’s minutes were cut immediately succeeding Butler’s arrival — the shift into “win-now” mode pushed Fultz to the bench and then shortly after his agent declared that Markelle wouldn’t play as he seeks the opinions of (a) shoulder specialist(s). With Fultz out of the picture for the time being, Ben Simmons’ minutes have gone up just a tick and TJ McConnell can be more secure in his role as the 2nd unit point guard.
  • With Dario Saric now in Minnesota, the majority of his minutes have been given to Wilson Chandler, and the remaining ~3/4 Saric minutes have gone to Mike Muscala.
  • Covington’s minutes were essentially filled completely by Butler.

Offense

Before = before Buler trade, After = after Butler trade

Offensive Rebounding %

  • Before: .258
  • After: .281
  • Difference: +.023

Turnover %

  • Before: .156
  • After: .148
  • Difference: -.008 (minus is good here — Sixers turning the ball over slightly less)

Shooting

  • Before: .514 eFG%, .562 TS%
  • After: .548 eFG%, .589 TS%
  • Difference: +.034 eFG%, +.027 TS%

FTA Rate

  • Before: .333
  • After: .328
  • Difference: -.005

% of FGA from 2PT

  • Before: 62%
  • After: 67.6%
  • Difference: +5.6%

% of FGA from 3PT

  • Before: 38%
  • After: 32.4%
  • Difference: -5.6%

Offensive Rating

  • Before: 106.6
  • After: 113.4
  • Difference: +6.8 post-trade

Overall, many of the small positive changes we’ve seen in the numbers/percentages above equate to a significantly more effective Sixers offense judging by offensive rating. Jimmy Butler isn’t solely responsible for the discrepancy. We need to factor in addition by subtraction: recall just how poorly Dario Saric was shooting to start the season — and Markelle Fultz for that matter. But it’s an encouraging start for the Sixers considering they still have 59 games left to not only maximize Butler, but incorporate others as well (hello, buyout market). The offense’s shot composition is certainly trending toward changing a bit, but that’s to be expected. Dario Saric and Robert Covington are shooting a combined 11.7 threes per-36 this season, whereas Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler’s combined 3PA per-36 sit at just 6.0. That’s a pretty huge difference, right about 50% less 3PA from Butler and Chandler. If I’m Elton Brand, I’m working hard at upgrading Chandler, who is more of a tweener, to a stretch four — a tough task, without many stretch fours available. If only the Sixers had signed a power forward this offseason who can space the floor — maybe like, a former Euroleague MVP...

Pioneer Press/Scott Takushi

The Pelicans are sitting at 11-11. If they go on an extended cold streak and become sellers at the deadline, Nikola Mirotic seems like a perfect fit with the starting lineup in place of Chandler. But that’s a pipe dream. Maybe the Sixers could pursue Nemanja Bjelica for a second time, though I’m unsure of how Bjelica fits in a playoff environment and he’s thriving on the Kings who are overachieving.

Five Player Lineups

The five player lineup with the most minutes before the trade was Simmons-Redick-Covington-Saric-Embiid — you may remember this lineup as the most effective high usage lineup in the NBA last season. Here’s how they fared this year:

  • A negative net-rating for this group is utterly disappointing. Most of the explanation for the poor performance starts with Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, both of whom were playing well below the standard they had set in 2017-2018.

The five man lineup seeing the most minutes following the trade has been the new starting lineup: Simmons-Redick-Butler-Chandler-Embiid. They’ve put together quite the showing:

  • +15.0:

Next time, we’ll take a look at the defensive numbers before and after the Sixers acquired Jimmy Butler and see what we can extract from those.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com.