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Jimmy Butler officially joins Philadelphia 76ers

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We’ve known about it since Saturday but it didn’t become official until Monday (because the call to the NBA league office could not be completed until the office was open):

Minnesota has traded Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia, along with injured rookie Justin Patton, for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.

Butler and his agent had told Tom Thibodeau he wanted a trade at least three times over the summer, but there was no action, something reported in a must-read story at the Athletic by Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania. They get into how the owner, Glen Taylor, was involved but Tom Thibodeau held out hope for a long time that just getting the guys on the court together and winning would change Butler’s mind. It wasn’t going to, and the Timberwolves were losing. Eventually, Thibodeau came around, but by the time he did a very good Miami Heat offer — Josh Richardson and a 2019 first round pick — was off the table. From The Athletic.

After Butler plays 39 minutes in a loss to the Clippers that dropped the Wolves to 0-3 on the trip, the Wolves have conversations with the Heat about a possible trade. But the Heat inform the Wolves that Richardson is no longer on the table after his stellar start to the season, and the Wolves move on.

Minnesota begins to engage seriously with Philadelphia, New Orleans and Houston. New Orleans’ package is headlined by Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round draft pick and the Rockets’ proposal has Eric Gordon, Nene and two first-round picks, sources said. The 76ers come with their proposal around Robert Covington and Dario Saric, leaving the Timberwolves to deliberate.

Eventually, the pick and other players were added, and the deal with Philly got done. Butler is expected to make his debut Wednesday against Orlando.

Butler is a free agent this summer and is expected to re-sign in Philadelphia. His max contract would be five-years, $190 million, and that’s what he is seeking.

Trading for Butler is the death of The Process in Philadelphia — this is a win-now team with Butler, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. The Sixers have their big three but right now don’t have enough shooting and depth around them. Can Markelle Fultz be part of that? Already his name is coming up in trade rumors around the league as Philly looks for the pieces they need right now to go after Boston, Toronto, and maybe Milwaukee at the top of the East.

With Butler, the Sixers have a window of a few years — while Butler is just 29 he has heavy miles on his body thanks to Thibodeau and Butler’s all-out style of play. Plenty of GMs around the league have been hesitant (at best) to give Butler a five-year contract, expecting his body to break down. The Sixers went all-in, now they need to add the players that help them contend for a ring. It’s a new era in Philly.

Joel Embiid: Andrew Wiggins says Sixers will win East with Jimmy Butler

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Things weren’t exactly buddy-buddy between Jimmy Butler and fellow Minnesota Timberwolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins leading into the season. Butler was actively pursuing a trade, and the rep around the NBA was that he did not believe in the work ethic of either Towns or Wiggins.

Now Butler is headed to the Philadelphia 76ers, and the deal should be completed early this coming week. As Butler departs, it appears the tone has changed in Minnesota somewhat, at least publicly.

On Saturday night, Sixers big man Joel Embiid said that both Towns and Wiggins had talked to him and said that they thought Butler was going to fit into the Philadelphia culture.

Wiggins even went so far as to make a proclamation about the 76ers’ playoff hopes, according to Embiid.

Via ESPN:

“They thought that he was going to be good for us,” Embiid told ESPN after a 112-106 overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night. “They thought that we were definitely going to get along. He wants to win. Wiggs told me that he thought that we were going to win the East for sure.”

This could just be the Timberwolves youngsters feeling relieved that Butler is no longer clouding the situation around their franchise. Or perhaps they really do mean it? In either case, it will be massively interesting to see what happens with both of these teams moving forward.

The Timberwolves are just 4-9, but get some rotational help out of Robert Covington and Dario Saric through the trade with the Sixers. The situation with Tom Thibodeau is still tenuous, and expectations are for him to leave the franchise at the end of the year.

For Philadelphia, things remain complicated. Butler is a bonafide star and that should help them rise above the rest in the East. However, what the Sixers have desperately needed is more shooting and Butler is a ball-dominant player. Combined with Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, it will be interesting to see how smooth they can get their offense to run even the tendencies of their top players.

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons believe Jimmy Butler is ‘going to fit right in’

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Jimmy Butler is going to be a jolt to the Sixers system. After an uninspiring first 14 games at 8-6 (with the net rating of -0.9, which would suggest a .500 team) Philadelphia is trading for Butler, a top 10 (or top 12, at worst) NBA player. Butler can knock down threes, attack the rim, moves the ball, and is an elite on-ball defender. More importantly, he’s done all of it with hustle and grit, things the Sixers have lacked this season.

However, there are questions. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both are used to having the ball in their hands, and so does Butler, but NBA rules still state only one ball can be used at a time. Can the Sixers players learn to sacrifice for the greater good, as the Warriors’ stars have done? Also, is there enough shooting and depth on the Sixers for them to truly be a threat to Boston/Toronto/Milwaukee?

Embiid and Simmons say yes, as they told Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“Between me, Jo and Jimmy,” Simmons said, “we all have that similar mindset of we hate losing, that pisses us off and we want to win.”

“I think he’s going to help us a lot offensively and especially defensively,” Embiid said. “He’s one of the best defensive players in the league. I’m excited to see where he takes us, and how much better we are going to look….

“With the type of system we play, we like to move the ball,” Embiid said. “The ball goes through everybody’s hands, so I don’t think bringing someone else will take the ball out of my hands or Ben’s hands. We are going to figure it out. I’m sure he’s coming in here willing to fit in.”

“We add another All-Star to the team, definitely,” Simmons said. “A guy like him coming in that can score the ball, veteran leadership, experience, I think he’s going to fit right in.”

Philadelphia believes they have vaulted themselves back up to contender status with this move. After a summer of openly trying to land another superstar and failing, then looking at a free agency market that may not see superstars on the move the way some predicted (Kyrie Irving says he’s staying in Boston, Klay Thompson isn’t expected to leave Golden State, etc…), Sixers ownership and management decided to move all-in now. That’s always a risk, you never know for sure what the next card to be turned over will be, but for the Sixers it’s was the right move.

 

Embiid and Simmons are excited and believe it will work, and that’s a big first step.

Winners and losers from Jimmy Butler trade to Philadelphia

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Don’t call this trade a “win-win,” but it’s not a “lose-lose” either.

Like all the best trades (and most deals that get done in today’s NBA), the trade of Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia makes some sense for both sides, and what you think of it depends on what you think of the risks for both sides. In the deal (to be finalized Monday when the league office reopens), Philadelphia gets Butler and injured center Justin Patton; Minnesota lands Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless (who could be waived) and a 2022 second-round pick.

Philly wants to compete right now with Boston and Toronto — and don’t leave out Milwaukee — at the top of the East, this trade gives them a chance to do it. That is, if Butler, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons — all players who prefer to operate with the ball in their hands — can meld their games. They all have different strengths, it can work — if everyone is willing to sacrifice. For Minnesota, this was a solid trade considering the shotgun nature of it and the pressure Butler put them under by trying to blow up their franchise.

Who won and who lost in this deal? Here is a breakdown.

Winner: Jimmy Butler

He wanted out in the worst way and disrupted a promising young franchise to make it happen. Toronto Vince Carter would be proud. But Butler didn’t just want out of Minnesota, he wanted to go to a team that could both pay him big next summer, and contend for ring with him. He got all that. Philadelphia struck out big game hunting in free agency last summer and rather than wait until next summer they went with this fit. It may work, at least for the next couple of years (keep reading). Also, the reports are already out there that the Sixers plan to re-sign Butler. No doubt he wants to hit free agency and get that five-year, $190 million payday, but considering his age (he turns 30 next summer) and the Tom Thibodeau miles on his body, Philly may try to find a shorter option.

Winners: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — the Sixers went all in.

Philadelphia has plateaued to start this new season. The team hasn’t been terrible (8-5 record), but they have the point differential of a .500 team, and their offense has been bottom 10 in the league. Watch a Sixers game, then look at Boston or Toronto or Milwaukee, and the gap with the elite was obvious. Now, the Sixers could be back in the mix. If the ball-dominant games of Butler/Simmons/Embiid can mesh (Butler can play well off the ball, it’s just not his preference), and if the Sixers can find enough shooting and depth they should be a threat to everyone in the East, and where they want to be.

Loser: Markelle Fultz.

If you thought he was having confidence issues before, imagine how he feels after that glare he gets from Butler following his next couple of clanked threes. Butler’s intensity and high standards withered the confidence of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, what is it going to do to Fultz? Philly has its big three now, and Fultz is not in that picture. It makes sense, once Wilson Chandler gets healthy, for the Sixers to move Fultz to the bench and have him as a sixth man. However, whether or not he can fill that role, and if the Sixers will look to trade him now, are both open questions.

Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns (and his state of mind).

The Towns/Butler feud was about as quiet as the Pete Davidson/Ariana Grande breakup, but Butler is the louder, more dominant personality and that seemed to have Towns stepping back. In the games Butler has sat this season (for “general soreness” or any reason) Towns has scored 9.6 more points per game and has looked more aggressive and focused. With Butler, Towns looked lethargic and disinterested. Minnesota became Towns’ team the day he signed that max rookie contract extension last summer, the feud with Butler divided the team and stopped from happening. Now, Butler is gone, Towns needs to own this, take charge and make the Timberwolves his own.

You can say the same things about Andrew Wiggins if you want, but I have moved on from him as a cornerstone kind of player.

Loser: Miami Heat and Houston Rockets.

Both of these teams can argue they put better offers on the table than the one Thibodeau and Minnesota took from Philadelphia. I think Miami’s argument there is legit — with the offer they made before the season started with Josh Richardson and a 2019 first-round pick (plus Dion Waiters to make the money work). However, with Richardson playing well to start the season (20.5 points a game, knocking down threes, looking like an All-Star) and on a great contract (four years, $42 million), ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported he was pulled off the table. That killed any deal — and it destined the Heat to mediocrity this season.

That Rockets’ “four first-round picks” offer made for an eye-catching headline but wasn’t really that great. The 2019 and 2021 picks will be deep in the 20s because the Rockets are good, we don’t know the protections on the 2023 and 2025 picks, plus Minnesota would have had to take on the bad Brandon Knight contract. Things maybe could have been worked with Eric Gordon, but that mean fewer picks. It was never going to work, but for a capped out Rockets team off to a slow start of its own, it could have used the jolt Butler gave them.

Loser: Sixers floor spacing.

This season Philadelphia is taking 38.7 percent of its shots from three, but they are hitting 33.6 percent, 21st in the league. Meaning a pedestrian 29.8 percent of their points were coming from three — teams know this and are packing the paint, especially when Fultz and Simmons are on the court together. Now it’s about to get worse. Covington has been the Sixers best three-point shooter this season, hitting 39 percent on 5.9 attempts per game. Dario Saric has had a rough start from three this season (30 percent) but he shot 39.3 percent last season and he will improve this season. While Butler is shooting 37.8 percent from three, he does not make up for the lost shooting in this trade.

Expect the Sixers to make another move to add shooting to this roster.

Winner: Tom Thibodeau’s dream of Minnesota making the playoffs in the West.

Tom Thibodeau knows he’s coaching for his job and he wants desperately to make the playoffs this season, which is why picks-heavy trade offers never got far with Minnesota. Covington and Saric give the Timberwolves quality players who fit needs and can be plugged right into the rotation. Just with the Butler distraction gone, the Timberwolves should improve. I wouldn’t bet on the Timberwolves making the postseason, they have to be able to climb out of the hole they dug themselves, currently three games out of the playoffs and needing to jump five teams. Even though it’s early, in a deep West that’s not going to be easy.

Loser: Sixers depth

Philadelphia’s top four — Embiid, Butler, Simmons, J.J. Redick — can stand toe-to-toe with any top four in the league… except for that team in the Bay Area. But anyone else. The problem has been depth, after those four the drop off has been steep — and that’s about to get worse. Covington and Saric averaged 64 minutes a night between them, as impressive as Butler is he can’t make up all those minutes. Wilson Chandler needs to get healthy, rookie Landry Shamet has shown promise (and can shoot), but the Sixers need the bench to step up now. Maybe play Butler can practice and play with the third string, that usually goes well

Winner: NBA Twitter

Not only did NBA Twitter already go off already on the trade, but now two of the biggest trash talkers in the NBA are on the same team. Bring. It. On.

Report: Minnesota agrees to trade Jimmy Butler Philadelphia for Robert Covington, Dario Saric

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Minnesota lost every game on a five-game road trip, with Friday night’s loss in Sacramento being the last straw — even Tom Thibodeau finally had to admit that the chemistry on his Timberwolves squad was a disaster with the Jimmy Butler trade request hanging over the team.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia has started off slow and played flat — while they are 8-5 they have the point differential of a team 6-7 (a net rating of -0.6) with a bottom ten offense. While Joel Embiid has been a beast, Ben Simmons has plateaued to start the season, Markelle Fultz is still figuring a lot of things out, and the Sixers have just looked pedestrian. They needed a jump start.

Jimmy Butler will do that.

The Sixers will acquire Butler as well as Justin Patton in a trade that will send Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second round pick to the Timberwolves. Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of the Athletic broke the story, which has since been confirmed by others.

With the league offices closed for the weekend, the trade cannot become official until Monday when the trade call can take place.

Philadelphia is trading for Butler with the full intention of re-signing him next summer when Butler is a free agent, and there is no way this deal gets done without a wink-and-nod agreement from Butler’s team that he would stay. The max he can earn is five years, $190 million, and while other teams are hesitant about that length of a deal for Butler, the Sixers have cashed in key assets and are all in now.

Minnesota did okay in what was a shotgun deal after Butler dropped his trade request right before the start of camp (although I think Miami’s Josh Richardson/first rounder offer was better). Robert Covington is a coveted “3&D” wing who will bring the kind of hustle and energy that Minnesota needs (and Butler delivered, but Covington will do it with less ego and attitude). Dario Saric gives them another big who can stretch the floor.

Minnesota also sent Butler out of the West, where he could have done a lot more damage to the Timberwolves in an already stacked conference.

Philadelphia looked back at last summer — when they went big game hunting for another star player, only to strike out — then looked at the free agency landscape going forward and realized they needed to act now. It’s a gamble that Butler, Embiid, and Simmons can mesh, but it’s a good bet to take. Philly’s big four — Embiid, Butler, Simmons, with J.J. Redick — is as good as anyone’s (outside of the Bay Area) but who will be the fifth player, and will the Sixers depth step become the questions. What this ultimately means for Markelle Fultz is also something to watch.