Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers made it to the second round of the playoffs. This year they want to do more. Led by point guard Ben Simmons and center Joel Embiid, most sports experts agreed that the team needed one more key component if they wanted to dominate the Eastern Conference following the departure of Lebron. Now fourth in the East, the 76ers may have found that missing piece in Jimmy Butler. They’re looking like a definite postseason contender… if everything works out as planned.
The team’s trade for Butler shows that the Sixers and its leadership are in it to win it. And once the newly composed “Big Three” learn to play together, we like their chances in the 2019 NBA Finals. Here’s what we think about the Philadelphia 76ers this season. Get tickets to watch them play with Razorgator!
The Big Three
Jimmy Butler is hopefully that so-called “missing piece” for Philadelphia. Traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the 76ers, Butler is an elite wing and a great defender. After a lot of drama with his former teammates and coaches, the four-time NBA All-Star actually requested the trade. The Sixers gave up two starters – Dario Saric and Robert Covington, both solid outside shooters – to acquire him. Despite the off-court drama, he’s a great player. Butler doesn’t need to score a ton because he’s happy to get a lot of assists and rebounds, but even so, he’s currently averaging 18 points per game with the Sixers. And if he’s healthy, he could be one of the best players in the league.
The 29-year-old is known for his brash personality and blunt way with words. The guard has been judged for handling his situation poorly, intimidating his younger teammates, causing locker room turmoil, and receiving boos from Minnesota crowds for requesting a trade so openly in the offseason. Even so, he still continued to lead the Timberwolves and play an average of 40 minutes a game with them until he left. Now there are rumors that Butler is also butting heads with Head Coach Brett Brown and trying to mess with his new team’s offensive chemistry. The addition of Butler, however, has increased the Sixers’ odds of reaching the Finals, putting them up there with the likes of the Celtics and Bucks. They just have to figure out where their newest player fits.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons is a triple-double waiting to happen in every game he plays, using what Charles Barkley calls a Magic Johnson-esque style. Simmons averages just over 16 points, 9 rebounds, and almost 8 assists per game. The point guard is one of the league’s best passers and his size is intimidating. The Australian may not shoot jumpers (like, ever) but he is comfortable with the ball in his hands. The thing is, Butler was also possibly the best passer on the Timberwolves team, so how do these two function together? Only in his second year in the NBA, Simmons said, “So far it’s been pretty easy. I figure it’s just been everyone finding their spot and where they can be most effective on the court at times.”
The final member of the trio, center Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP level. The seven-footer is probably the best player on the whole Sixers team, averaging a double-double this season so far. The big man is definitely in a flow, scoring nearly 27 points per game and shooting 48.5% from the floor. He’s also great at getting to the free throw line. Without him on the court, the Sixers tend to struggle. The hope is that Butler will help take some of the pressure off of him… while the fear is that he messes up Embiid’s rhythm.
Simmons and Embiid have had their own interpersonal drama. Most recently, Embiid flipped out on Simmons for aggressively going for a rebound and hitting Embiid in the face. Despite this, these two have been the cornerstones of the franchise and now we’ll have to see how Butler functions alongside them. Will they have the right chemistry? Will this trade be everything the Sixers bargained for? They’ve certainly been winning more games since the new addition to their roster – including a big one against the Raptors – but can they keep it up as we march toward the Finals?
The 76ers gave up a lot to get Butler. Losing their biggest outside shooters might shrink the floor around The Big Three. The good news is that they made the trade in November, so the team has plenty of time to work on gelling before a potential Finals run. The Sixers play well in clutch games and they’ve got three of the best players in the league now. While they could definitely have more depth and a stronger bench, we think the trade should be great for Philadelphia in the long run. And if not, Butler can always walk in the offseason.