Let me preface this by saying I’m not advocating for this. Like any good company thinking about rolling out a new product, I’m conducting a focus group.
According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times, Minnesota star Jimmy Butler has “no intention” of re-signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who traded for Butler last off-season in the deal that sent Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the pick that turned into Lauri Markkanen to Chicago.
Cowley cites that Butler has become “all but fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates”. The specific target of his angst is reportedly Karl-Anthony Towns.
(Before I continue with the focus group, let me say this. The Timberwolves shouldn’t even consider Butler over Towns. If the choice is between those two guys, take the one that’s 22 years old. Of course, this is the franchise that passed on Stephen Curry twice in the same draft, so who knows with these guys anymore.)
Anyway, since the Philadelphia 76ers struck out on Lebron James and Paul George in free agency, the apparent choices seem to be down to two: run it back or trade for a third guy. Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard continues to be the big prize, but where that is at this point is anyone’s guess.
Could Jimmy Butler be an option?
Butler is coming off a year where he averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game with a 122 ORtg and a .512 eFG%. The former Bull and Golden Eagle shot just 35% from three, but he only took four per game. Take that how you wish. Will his percentages improve if that goes up to five or six in the Sixers offense? Who knows?
Offensively, Butler did shoot closer to 40% on catch-and-shoot threes (38.7%), so that’s a little bit better. Catch-and-shoot would be the primary way Butler would be asked to get those off in an offense centered around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Butler also shot 75% in the paint and 52% on the drive. He’s good, offensively.
On the other side, Butler has the reputation of being one of the best defenders in the league — as evidenced by his four All-NBA Defense nods (granted 2nd team). This year aside — because that whole Timberwolves team was inept, defensively — Butler’s defensive rating has never been more than 107.
Imagine this scenario. It’s the playoffs with four minutes left, and the Sixers roll out a crunch time five of Simmons, Butler, Covington, Šarić, and Embiid. I pray for whatever team has to try and score against that, because it won’t be easy.
Holy lord, there’s a lot of tread gone from those tires, and the injury bug has hit Mr. Butler.
Butler has played on two different Tom Thibodeau teams, and it shows. He’s never played fewer than 35 minutes per game, and he’s never played a full 82-game season. Last year, he only played in 59 after tearing his meniscus.
Here’s another thing to consider. If Butler is fed up with the nonchalantness in Minnesota, how will he adjust to this Sixers team who is young, talented, and all kinds of fun/happy-go-lucky? As pointed out by @HoopCave, is Jimmy Butler ever really happy?
Trading for Butler could seem like a “win now” move, and the Sixers shouldn’t really be in any rush to do so. The Warriors have probably already won the 2019 season before it even starts. On the plus side to this, however, Butler is essentially on a one-year contract. He has a player option for next season, but if he wants one more big contract before he hits 30, he’ll want to opt out next offseason.
The price for Butler in a trade might be high, but potentially not nearly as high as for Kawhi Leonard. The Sixers may not have to trade Covington AND Šarić AND Zhaire Smith AND multiple first round picks. They wouldn’t be emptying the clip, per se, but some key ammunition might have to be lost.
Will this even be necessary? The Sixers just traded for forward Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets (also receiving draft considerations) in exchange for cash, helping bolster the wing depth on the roster.
I’ve already said it within the last two days:
Damn, this off-season is fun!