By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
After months of uncertainty, fireworks and countless drama, the seemingly most untradeable all-star in NBA history has finally been sent on his way.
Jimmy Butler officially got his ticket out of Minnesota today alongside forward Justin Patton, his destination: the Philadelphia 76ers, who sent back Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick to the land of Prince.
Now that the four-time All-Star Butler is going to test just how much brotherly love is in Philly we as a NBA public may be beyond just “trusting the process”? To do so would be rather blasé with a legit Big 3 on the Sixers now, it would seem more prudent to consider embracing a new campaign: the “Yes We Can” campaign.
The definition of the word “process,” as provided by the Webster dictionary, is “a series of actions or operations conducing to an end.” Philly’s “trust the process” campaign was appropriate for a team rebuilding itself from record low win totals and an incredible level of apathy among its fan base, but it cannot be the staple for this new phase that the Sixers are currently in simply because of the fact that they are in the winning stages now.
Before last season’s playoff run, the Sixers drafted six top-11 picks over four seasons. Out of those six picks, only Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons stayed and both had to miss at least a full season of basketball due to injury. During that time frame the franchise has experienced four losing seasons and the extension of an all-time playoff drought for Philadelphia. We also cannot forget to mention the countless years they could not sign free agents, likely because the NBA’s top talents weren’t quite ever sure of the direction of the 76ers.
With Simmons and Embiid now both established as top talents, the stage of going through years of failure and multiple top-tier draft picks to find and develop stars is officially over. Last year was the rehabilitation stage, this year started the “Yes We Can” campaign, even before acquiring Butler.
The 2017-18 season for Philly was quite a story to tell. Having the Rookie of the Year award winner in Simmons and Embiid finally playing the majority of a season and establishing himself as the team’s centerpiece, this duo shared space on the court and transcended their initial expectations for the season, joining in on the city-wide fun after the Eagles won the Super Bowl and using an upstart energy to finish the season with a 52-30 record and a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Though fellow supposed future Eastern Conference powerhouse Boston kept the Sixers from a possible defining playoff clash with LeBron James and Cleveland, the Sixers got more positive experience out of the season than it could have expected. It has taken the whole first month of this season to find some sort of spark to equal that of which they left last season with but they got it now with this trade. With Butler in tow, the Sixers can now continue to slowly climb up the ladder as a bonafide top-3 team in the East.
One of the problems the Sixers’ faced last season, especially in the playoffs, was the inability to have a person that can create his own shot in big time moments. With Butler in the mix, he now provides the Sixers a proven clutch offensive option. Butler also strengthens the defensive perimeter, something that Butler can do on a higher level than the departing Covington. But this does not solve the team’s biggest issue, which is a lack of shooting ability coming from beyond its starting line-up.
The current difference between this season and last season is the amount of shooting threats that the Sixers are able to utilize. Simmons game is built around setting others up to shoot or score,and to have a point guard like that paired with three marksmen (Marco Bellineli, JJ Redick and Ersan Ilyasova) shooting over 40 percent, it becomes a lethal situation to defend. This season, you are only stuck with Redick as your best shooter, and he’s not in the starting lineup. Simmons’ lack of an outside shot is well-documented and Embiid is only shooting 36 percent from the three this year.
We have to also be mindful that even though Butler is willing to sign long-term with a max contract, that does not mean that he will stay in Philly after the season.
In the short term, the bells will continue to ring in Philly. They traded for an All-Star that can really help the franchise and did not give up any major assets to do it. The trade, however, was a risk that the Sixers needed to make in order to secure a strong present and future as a winning franchise and continue to elevate their “Yes We Can” levels.
Hopefully this campaign can take the Sixers to the next level in the playoffs this season and keep a top tier two-way player in their long-term plans.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR