SIXERS GET JIMMY, BUT …
by Tracy Graven
Senior NBA Analyst
Well, the first melodrama of the NBA season has come to a close.
Jimmy Butler has finally been dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers … which seems like a steal for Philadelphia when you look at it on paper, once it gains league approval on Monday.
But who wins in this situation?
People will across the board say Jimmy Butler and the Philadelphia 76ers.
However, when you consider the cancer Butler had become in Minnesota - wrought from a sizable increase in his head (ego) - you have to give the win to Tom Thibodeau and Glen Taylor.
Said cancer was metastasizing before our very eyes, as Big Head Butler was dictating when and if he would play (at least in regard to back-to-backs) and telling his teammates that the only guy that could lead this team was the one asking to be traded.
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man.” — Ernest Hemingway
It remains to be seen if that alleged leadership will be established on a team that already has its future cemented on the shoulders of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
The Sixers seemingly have leadership already in the form of Embiid, who early on dubbed himself ‘The Process,’ the very man who emotionally and physically evolved through ‘The Process’ as authored by former general manager Sam Hinkie.
As a 76er, Embiid has already put up 296 points, 124 rebounds, and 23 blocked shots through the first 10 games of the season, the only other player besides Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1973-74 season) to log that many blocks int he first 10 games. He’s also in vaunted company alongside Wilt Chamberlain as the only two Sixers to drop at least 296 points and 124 rebounds in the first 10 games.
That being said, Butler has the chance to revamp his image to the point that made him endearing in the first place, especially given that his new team just fell to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday by six points in overtime, the 76ers could have certainly used Butler and his 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
While Butler, Dario Saric (11.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.0 apg) and Robert Covington (11.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 apg) are the primary cogs in the deal, the Timberwolves would also get 11th year veteran Jerryd Bayless (who has logged minutes with Portland, New Orleans, Toronto, Memphis, Boston, and Milwaukee) and a 2022 second round selection, while the 76ers also add 7’ center Justin Patton, who has not logged any stats this season.
It’s not unusual that a player picked 30th in the 1st round evolves into a solid contributor, or even a star player. Just ask people like David Lee, Carl Herrera, Mark West, Kenny Natt, Nate McMillan or even the late Sean Rooks.
All developed into solid journeymen in the NBA, none honestly reached what could be called a star level, like Butler would best described in today’s environment.
Butler is a star, but a few humble step short of a franchise player. What he gained in the stat line since his rookie season of 2.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg, and 0.3 apg through 42 games as a rotation player was offset by his humble approach and he was lauded as a blue collar player who might be solid someday.
His second season is the only season he has played 82 games, starting only 20 under then coach … you guessed it, Tom Thibodeau. His best game that season was a 22-point performance against the New York Knicks.
Butler started from then on, but only logged 67, 65, 67, 76, 59, 10 in each respective season since.
Superstar numbers? I stop well short of placing that crown on his head. Besides, he seems to have done that himself, without a resume to back it up. Reminds me of another talent consumed by egomania.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself - but thinking of yourself less.
Butler has a fresh start and I hope he approaches it and sees it as such. The 76ers are Embiid’s and Simmons’ team.
How Butler assimilates is squarely on his shoulders and he alone can determine whether he goes down in the annals of NBA history as a legend or a third option journeyman.
Pride has made Jimmy Butler artificial at best.
Going back to the humility that endeared him to many of his fans (this guy included) is what will make him real once again.
And an embedded star in this league now and forever.
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