Philadelphia 76ers: Why Trading for Butler was a Lateral Move

This past Saturday the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Butler had been very vocal throughout the offseason about wanting to be traded, and his wish was finally granted. Butler is regarded as not only one of the best scoring shooting guards but also one of the best defensive guards as well. However, this article will explain why I feel this trade doesn’t make the Sixers a more significant threat in the East.

At the start of this season, the Sixers were slated to be one of the top contenders coming out of the East. With LeBron gone to the Lakers, the Eastern Conference is up for grabs. Early on the Raptors and Bucks have separated themselves as the early favorites, with Philadelphia and Boston right behind them. To recap the trade, Philadelphia received Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton. Minnesota acquired Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second round draft pick. On the surface, you would think Philadelphia adding a top player in Butler would make them the new favorites. But, if you look beyond the surface, it’s clear that this is not the case.


The addition of Jimmy Butler does improve the starting lineup of the Sixers. On the year Butler is averaging 21.3ppg and just over five rebounds. He’s shooting 47% from the field as well as 37% from 3 point range. With Covington gone, J.J. Reddick could potentially move into the starting lineup. This means the Sixers potential starting five could be Ben Simmons, J.J. Reddick, Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid and either Wilson Chandler or Amir Johnson. On paper, this seems like a formidable starting unit. Arguably the best in terms of talent in the East.

(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

The loss of both Covington and Saric pose two problems for the Sixers though. One of them being lack of shooting, the other being size. Over the past few seasons, Robert Covington has been a consistent scorer but a hot and cold three-point shooter. He’s averaged 12 points the last three seasons for Philadelphia and has been a career 35% shooter from beyond the arc. Still, at 6’9 Covington’s ability to stretch the floor was significant for a Sixers team that didn’t have many shooters. Especially in the starting unit. For Dario, it’s the same thing. Before the trade, he was the Sixers’ starting power forward. After the trade, the team is now down to 2 big men (aside from Embiid), Furkan Korkmaz and Amir Johnson. Neither of whom provides the offensive or defensive capabilities of Saric. Dario had been averaging 11 points and six rebounds on the year.


The reason why trading for Jimmy Butler doesn’t do much for the Sixers is that they are still less talented as a whole than some of the other teams in the East. The Raptors have the best player in the East in Kawhi Leonard who has found new life this season. The Raptors also have a solid and well-balanced team from starters to the bench. The Boston Celtics are another team that is sound top to bottom. Although they haven’t had a great start, they were still a game away from going to the Finals last season. Outside of the starting unit, the Sixers don’t have much firepower on their bench. Markelle Fultz is still struggling to find his jump shot, and there isn’t a player that you’re confident in that can get off their own shot aside from Wilson Chandler.

Although I feel the Sixers made a lateral move with this trade, it doesn’t mean that they are any further away from getting to the finals. As it stands right now, it will be a potential 4 or 5 team race in the East if you include Indiana. The only thing separating the Sixers from the Bucks, Raptors, and Celtics is an established superstar. However, Butler’s competitive nature and hard-nosed play could be just what a young Philadelphia team needs to garner some respect and make some noise come playoff time.


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Justin Thomas
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