According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, league sources have confirmed a trade that will send Jimmy Butler to the Sixers in exchange for a package surrounding Robert Covington and Dario Saric.
Ideally, the move satisfies the team’s long held desire to add a “superstar” to the core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
But two questions remain; is Butler really a superstar? And will giving up two vital role players (and all that cap space) be worth the exchange?
Impact on Defense
Let me start by framing it this way: if the team is able to replace or improve upon the defensive value that Covington and Saric provided then this is an obvious win for the Sixers committee in the front office. But that isn’t a given; Covington was elite, and Saric was sneaky good on the perimeter and at the rim.
Jimmy Butler is considered one of the league’s premier defenders, but Covington ranks ahead of him in nearly every defensive metric available. Obviously those individual numbers don’t perfectly translate to a player’s impact on ‘team defense.’ The safe bet is that they don’t skip a beat with Butler in there instead of RoCo, but we won’t know until they get a chance to mesh as a unit.
Impact on Offense
Defensive impact aside, and excuse me if I’m pointing out the obvious, but the most notable value that Butler will have is on offense. Not only is he a reliable shooter from distance, but he can get his own shot at any given moment—whether it be at the rim or a jump shot off the bounce.
Butler will easily be the most effective isolation scorer the Sixers have had since Allen Iverson (Embiid aside). And to be honest, when you look at it like that, and as I re-read that sentence, it’s almost impossible to think that this is a bad trade.
The team’s thirst for a superstar was really more about finding a player who can efficiently get his own shot while also fitting in to a system built around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Butler was never my first choice out of all the names that had been linked to Philly over the past year, and I never considered him the “final piece”—because he’s not—but I certainly welcome this trade as a stepping stone to building the type of roster that can compete with Golden State.
Impact on Depth
One of my few concerns is whether or not the team will be able to fill the void left by Covington and Saric—both players filled crucial roles in BB’s system, and that obviously can’t be fully supplemented by Butler alone. Some current bench players, whether it be Shamet, Muscala, McConnell, or Crowder, will need to step up in order to assure the combined 64 minutes a night from Cov and Dario won’t be sorely missed.
There’s a reason that those two players were able to fetch someone of Butler’s value—it’s because they’re significantly better than any replacement-level player you can add off waivers or through trading a 2nd round pick.
Impact on Assets
On top of that, my main concern is with the team’s fast dwindling assets. With our future first round picks becoming less valuable (don’t expect a pick lower than the 20’s for a long time) and our surpluses of cap space being eaten up by the minute, I’m concerned that the team won’t have the capital available to acquire the previously mentioned “final piece” on top of Butler.
Top heavy teams don’t win in the NBA unless they’re lead by LeBron, and even then, the need for a full cast of role players is apparent. Contrary to the seemingly popular belief, they aren’t easy to find.
Make no mistake about it, the Sixers have just improved their roster by trading for Jimmy Butler. I’d be an idiot to argue otherwise.
But you’d be a fool to think Butler is anywhere close to a “final piece,” and it’s very possible that the assets he just consumed—two valuable role players and $30 million worth of cap space—isn’t worth the return.
I won’t say I dislike the trade, but I can’t help but wonder: what would Sam Hinkie say?