Butler Trade Doesn't Solve Philadelphia's Bigger Problem
by Rick Bouch Scores & Statson
It was the first blockbuster trade of the 2018-19 NBA season. Minnesota sent the beleaguered Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers for Dario Saric and Robert Covington. The Sixers add one of the league’s best players to an already loaded lineup that features All-Star Joel Embiid and potential All-Star Ben Simmons. All is good in the City of Brotherly Love, right?
Not exactly. The Butler trade doesn’t really address the real problem in Philadelphia. The 76ers are just 9-6 after 15 games and have some serious flaws, especially on offense.
The 76ers’ Woes Last year, Philadelphia was 14th in the NBA in offensive efficiency. They could have been better, but this season with a year of playing together under their collective belts the 76ers would improve. Or at least one would have thought so.
The Sixers are actually worse – 21st thus far this season – in offensive efficiency and trading for Butler does not solve the problem. Here’s why. The most successful starting lineup for the Sixers over the past few years included Saric and Covington, guys that created space for Embiid and Simmons. Last season when Philadelphia won 16 games in a row to finish the regular season, the Sixers had the third-best offense in the league with an effective field goal percentage of 55.6 and 33.3 3-point attempts per game.
Guess who took over a third of those 3-point shots? Saric and Covington. And, they made almost 40 percent of them. Butler can replace some of Saric’s and Covington’s scoring, but he is not a long-range bomber. The strongest part of Butler’s game is driving to the basket to create high-quality shots and trips to the free throw line.
Butler’s Impact Butler in Philadelphia may have more of a psychological impact on the team than anything. So far this season, Butler ranks 50th out of 55 players that have at least 100 drives to the basket this season. He has 0.89 points per drive. That is his lowest per drive in the past five seasons. Butler is also averaging the fewest free throw attempts of his career. That may all change now that Butler is out of the chaos that was Minnesota, but if it doesn’t, then what?
Also, keep in mind that Butler is 29 years old and has played a ton of minutes over the last several years. Over the past six seasons, Butler has averaged 35 minutes per game and even led the league in minutes played in 2014-15. With Philadelphia trading away some of its depth, Butler is going to be expected to log some serious minutes for the Sixers.
Remember Butler’s ex-teammates Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Derrick Rose? They all logged too many minutes playing for Tom Thibodeau in Chicago too. Each of them had major orthopedic problems by the age of 30.
The Near Future Butler will likely play his first game for the Sixers this week. To make room for him in the starting lineup, Philadelphia will probably send Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, to the bench. Butler and the 76ers will get to see how well they mesh over the next week with games against Orlando, Utah, Charlotte, and Phoenix.