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Archive for the ‘76ers’ Category

Sixers Notebook: Butler deal makes statement

Posted by Eric Fisher On November - 23 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Give Sixers general manager Elton Brand credit. When it became clear that the Sixers weren’t going to be a strong contender to reach the NBA Finals, Brand pulled the trigger on a trade for swingman Jimmy Butler.

The trade, which sent Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a second-round draft pick in 2022 to the Timberwolves for Butler and center Justin Patton, has elevated the Sixers into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. They join the Raptors, Bucks and Celtics – despite the Celtics’ struggles this season, they should still be considered a contender – in the upper crust of the Eastern Conference.

Butler’s arrival doesn’t cure all that ails the Sixers. They still have a disturbing tendency to squander bit leads. But there’s no question that Butler makes the Sixers a better team at both ends of the floor.

The best example of Butler’s impact at both ends of the floor came last Saturday during a 122-119 overtime victory over the Hornets. With the score tied near the end of overtime, Butler blocked a shot by Kemba Walker, who had already scored 60 points. But then he alertly jumped out of bounds to save the ball by tapping it back to his teammates, thereby gaining possession for the Sixers. Butler, who missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation, drilled a 3-pointer on the same play with 0.3 seconds.

All five of the Sixers’ games (through Wednesday’s win over the Pelicans) have been decided by six or fewer points. In all of them, Butler has made a play near the end of the game, either on offense or defense – or both – that has influenced the outcome.

The closeness of those games highlights the thin line between winning and losing in the NBA. If Butler makes the difference in five or six of those close games, the trade will be a success.

The Sixers will need to adjust to having a third star on the team. And Butler must adjust as well. He has been rumored to be unhappy at his two previous stops, with the Bulls and Timberwolves. The alleged source of his unhappiness in Minnesota was taking a back seat to the Timberwolves’ young start. So far, that doesn’t seem to be a problem with the Sixers.

While averaging 17.2 points in his first five games as a Sixer, Butler has been deferential to the Sixers’ two young stars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Butler scored 28 points during a win over the Jazz in his home debut, but that’s his only total above 16. He hasn’t dominated the ball at all.

If anyone has had difficulty adjusting, it’s Simmons. He seemed reluctant to assert himself during Butler’s first few games. The last two games, however, he seems to have settled on a better mix of driving to the basket and getting Butler involved.

For all of the concern some have expressed about losing Covington, Butler fills the same role at the defensive end while providing much more consistent offense, including an ability to create his own shot.

Acquiring Butler, whose is eligible to become a free agent after this season, was a bold move. It’s not a guarantee to pay off in the playoffs, and the trade will look bad if Butler leaves after this season, but the Sixers deserve credit for trying to improve to the level where they can compete for a championship.


FULTZ ON SHELF: The acquisition of Jimmy Butler seems to be an admission that guard Markelle Fultz isn’t going to develop into third start the Sixers needed – at least not this year. Fultz’s role was further downgraded during Saturday’s overtime win over the Hornets, with T.J. McConnell taking his minutes off the bench during the second half. Wilson Chandler took Fultz’s starting role in the first half.

Two days later, before the Sixers’ next game, came news that, at the direction of his agent, Fultz was going to seek medical opinions about his shoulder. In a statement, Sixers general manager Elton Brand made it clear that Fultz has been cleared to play by the Sixers and that it is Raymond Brothers, Fultz’s agent, who thinks the second-year guard needs medical attention for his shoulder.

A few days later, The Athletic, citing sources, reported that Fultz is also going to have his right wrist checked by a doctor. The report also said that Fultz would like “a change of scenery.” Brothers responded to the report by saying that he hasn’t given any indication to Brand that Fultz wants to be traded.

That’s what’s known as a “non-denial denial.” Brothers said he hasn’t communicated to Brand that Fultz would like to be traded without actually denying that Fultz wants to be traded. This all comes on the heels of Fultz redeveloping a hitch in his free throw shooting.

The bottom line is that the Fultz situation is a mess, and now there’s additional reason to doubt that the top overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft will ever become a productive player for the Sixers.


McCONNELL STEPS UP: Markelle Fultz’s role is diminished by the arrival of Jimmy Butler, but the truth is that the Sixers are a better team with T.J. McConnell in the lineup. McConnell has been anchored to the bench six times this season without complaining. All he does is give his best effort every time he’s called upon, which endears him to Sixers fans.

Head coach Brett Brown finally broke down last week and used McConnell for more minutes than Fultz during the second half against the Hornets. The scrappy McConnell also made the Sixers a better team when he received more minutes during last season’s playoff series against the Celtics.

McConnell doesn’t have the pedigree of the high draft picks on the Sixers’ roster, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a valuable player.


ROOKIE FILLS ROLE: If the Sixers needed a combination guard to come off the bench, they didn’t need to select Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick in 2017. They may have found that player with the 26th selection of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Through 20 games, rookie Landry Shamet is averaging 7.7 points while playing both point guard and shooting guard. The versatile Shamet is also effective at the defensive end of the court.


PERFECT 10: The Sixers enter Friday’s game against the Cavaliers with a 10-0 record at Wells Fargo Center this season.


NO LEAD IS SAFE: The Sixers nearly squandered a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead Wednesday during a 121-120 win over the Pelicans that wasn’t secured until Anthony Davis missed the third of three free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining. The Sixers blew a 16-point lead during a loss to the Magic, who scored 21 straight points, during Jimmy Butler’s debut. Losing double-digit leads is a habit the Sixers need to break.


ROOKIE TRADITION: It is possible that Zhaire Smith, a first-round pick acquired by the Sixers from the Suns on draft night, could follow Sixers tradition by missing his entire rookie season. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Nerlens Noel missed their entire rookie seasons (Embiid missed his first two seasons) with injuries, and Markelle Fultz nearly missed his entire rookie season. Smith, however, might have the most unique reason for missing the season.

After breaking his foot during his first summer league game with the Sixers, Smith was expected back in December. But he had an allergic reaction to a food product on Sept. 26, resulting in the need for a thoracoscopy, which is a surgical procedure during which a scope with a video camera attached is inserted into the chest in order to examine the patient’s lungs. On Nov. 9, the Sixers issued a release stating that Smith has received “additional treatment for complications derived from the allergic reaction that initially required a thoracoscopy.” It is possible that Smith, who reportedly has lost 20 pounds, will miss his entire rookie season.


PRESSURE IS ON: The trade for Jimmy Butler has certainly turned up the pressure on head coach Brett Brown to guide the team at least to the Eastern Conference Finals.


LOOKAHEAD: The Sixers certainly picked a good time to adjust to Jimmy Butler being in the lineup. They haven’t played an elite team since acquiring Butler, and they will only face teams with losing records during the next week. They host the 2-14 Cavaliers tonight (Friday), visit the 8-12 Nets on Sunday (6 p.m.) before returning home to host the 5-14 Knicks on Wednesday (7 p.m.) and 6-11 Wizards on Friday (7 p.m.). The Sixers’ next game against a team with a winning record will on Sun., Dec. 2 at home against the Southwest Division-leading Grizzlies.

Sixers add huge piece in Butler

Posted by Eric Fisher On November - 10 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

After coming up empty while “star hunting” in free agency and via trade this summer, the Sixers finally acquired a star Saturday.

The Sixers acquired swingman Jimmy Butler from the Timberwolves in exchange for Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a second-round draft pick in 2022, according to multiple reports. The Sixers will also receive sidelined second-year center Justin Patton. Assuming all players pass their physicals, the trade is expected to become official on Monday.

Butler, 29, is a third star to complement young Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. A four-time all-star, Butler, who spent his first six seasons with the Bulls before being traded to the Timberwolves last season, has averaged at least 20 points per game the past four seasons. He is averaging 21.3 points in 10 games this season.

In addition to being a good perimeter shooter, Butler was named to the NBA All-Defensive second team in four of the past five seasons (he was on the third team in the other season). The Sixers are hoping that Butler’s defense offsets the loss of Covington, who was selected to the NBA All-Defensive first team last season, but is a streaky outside shooter. Covington is averaging 11.3 points this season.

There isn’t a replacement for the versatile Saric, who is averaging 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds. After struggling offensively during the early portion of this season, Saric seemed to find a shooting rhythm the past two games. The Sixers certainly didn’t want to give up the 24-year-old Saric, but Butler wasn’t going to be acquired on the cheap.

One risk with Butler is that he is eligible to become a free agent after this season. But ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Sixers “fully expect” to agree on a contract with Butler after this season. That expectation, of course, is likely contingent on how well Butler meshes with Embiid and Simmons. Butler was unhappy with the Timberwolves, whose roster has several young stars, and asked to be traded. Butler would need to adjust to Embiid and Simmons being the Sixers’ top two stars.

The trade for Butler seems to be an admission that the Sixers aren’t on the save level as the Celtics and Raptors, the top two teams in the Atlantic Division. The Bucks may also have passed the Sixers in the Eastern Conference pecking order.

The Sixers may also have realized that second-year guard Markelle Fultz isn’t going to develop into the complementary third star they need — at least not this season. Fultz has not been effective when paired with Simmons this season.

General manager Elton Brand may also have decided that the Sixers are unlikely to land any of the prized free agents next season. Or perhaps he didn’t want to take a chance on being shut out on the free-agent market again.

For all of the reasons cited above, the trade makes a lot of sense for the Sixers. Most importantly, they weren’t championship contenders without Butler. With him, they are championship contenders.


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Butler game-winner vs. Nets