Reaction & Grade for the Jimmy Butler trade

Jon Krawczynski of the Athletic has reported that the Sixers have a trade in place to bring Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton to Philly and send Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick to Minnesota. Come Monday, the two teams can call the trade into the league office and finalize the deal. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers and Butler “to reach a deal on a long-term contract this summer.”

  • Parting with Dario Saric and Robert Covington is unsettling, especially for many of the fans that have followed this team day in and day out through the tanking era. We’ve watched these two players grow immensely since joining the team. Robert Covington was a D-Leaguer when Sam Hinkie first prioritized acquiring him. Covington always showed chops on defense, and being in the tanking environment gave him a chance to confidently fire away from distance, effectively turning Cov into prototypical a 3-and-D player. Nowadays, Covington is an All-Defensive player and one of the most underrated wings in the league. The Sixers will miss his presence, no question. As for Dario — I mean, the guy is a fan favorite, the favorite for a faction of Sixers fans. His talent level was a polarizing topic amongst some, but he’s one of the more entertaining players in the league due to his personality and tenacity. He will also be missed.
  • Jimmy Butler is an incredibly talented and effective player, and despite what some would have you believe, he’s going to be a great fit in the Sixers offense. Butler is an effective spot-up shooter, a worthy running mate to Ben Simmons in transition, and most importantly for the playoffs, he gets bucketz one-on-one. He’s also a world-class defender, which softens some of the blow of losing Covington.
  • There’s questions about Butler’s locker room fit. But I really believe Butler will mesh well with Simmons and Joel Embiid. Simmons is a competitor, and I think he’ll admire Butler’s tenacity. As for Embiid, the two should have some real friendly competition given Butler’s willingness to call others out and Embiid’s ability to talk the talk. Anything potential beef those two get into, if they even would, should likely be worked out considering Embiid doesn’t take himself too seriously. One of Butler’s biggest criticisms of T-Wolves teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins is that Butler believes they don’t bring 100% on defense. Simmons and Embiid are high effort defenders and effective.
  • What about Fultz? I think if anyone is in jeopardy of clashing with Butler, it could be Fultz. The team has been patient with Markelle as he finds his way and develops, but Butler doesn’t seem to be a very patient guy, and he doesn’t take well to losing. But I have to imagine that the front office has already and will continue to communicate to Butler that they’ll have zero tolerance for any sort of antagonistic behavior reactionary to Fultz.
  • Dario Saric’ rookie contract expires after the 2019-2020, and extending him or not would have been a tough call financially. It’s possible the Sixers couldn’t retain Dario, so one could talk themselves into believing in getting something in return before you get nothing.
  • This move will define Elton Brand’s tenure as Sixers GM, whether he was primarily responsible or not. (Josh Harris was surely very active in this decision.)

Grade: My immediate grade is an A- (the minus because, dammit, I’ll miss Cov). That could change, but it’s where my impulse goes. In the past, I was against trading for Butler. But over the last few weeks I had come over to the other side. This move immediately makes the Sixers legitimate Eastern Conference contenders, and Butler, at this point, seems to anticipate staying in Philly long-term. If Butler stays healthy, and some would argue his health concerns are either a) over exaggerated or b) under exaggerated, the Sixers have a roster in place to contend over the next 2 or 3 years at least. At the same time, the Sixers maintain assets for the long(er) haul, like the MIA’ 2021 pick, Zhaire Smith and Markelle Fultz. Losing Covington is tough, he’s a very impactful player. But Butler is an upgrade over Covington — an All-NBA talent compared to an All-Defensive talent. With Butler on board, the Sixers have two of the 10 best players in the NBA, and if Simmons returns to 2018-post-All-Star form (which I believe is only a matter of time and maybe rotation changes), three of the 15 best players in the NBA.

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