The Philadelphia 76ers are entering a new era this season. After their great turnaround in 2017, the 76ers have entered the 2018-19 NBA season with a mission and a bullseye on their back. While young, this is what they want and deserve. Now, things are about to get interesting after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported a blockbuster trade this past weekend in which Dario Saric and Robert Covington (in addition to Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick) were traded for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton.
With this one move, the 76ers have gone all in.
This is different than LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers or Kevin Durant teaming up with the enemy in the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers, even with LeBron, are not a championship-caliber team. The Warriors, before Durant, had already been to two straight NBA Finals. Neither were 100 percent needed (well the Lakers made a culture change James), but both teams did improve with their presence.
In Philly, Butler is viewed as the missing link. Last season in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, things may have gone differently if the 76ers had a closer. This is what Butler will add to the team. Losing a defensive presence like Covington will hurt but in the long run, they will make do, and Butler is quite the defender in his own right.
With Butler set to make his debut tonight, many fans are expecting that the team will run the Eastern Conference. Not so fast, though, Sixers faithful. This 76ers team was built by hand. What general manager Elton Brand just pulled off with this trade is a wild card. As good as the Toronto Raptors are playing with the addition of Kawhi Leonard, he has had practice and the preseason to get acquainted with his new role and teammates. The same cannot be said about Butler and the Philadelphia 76ers.
So what should we expect?
First things first, the team will struggle. I’m not saying they can’t pull out a few wins as they get acclimated, but it will not be easy. Ben Simmons has never played with a player of Butler’s caliber on the wings. The same goes for Joel Embiid. They are the faces of the franchise and now, here comes a four-time All-Star who may just take a bit of that “Philly Pride” away from them. There will be some bruised egos in the beginning.
Secondly, the spotlight just got a bit brighter on this team. Entering the season, they were expected to win, and now they have to win. The talk of trading Markelle Fultz will only increase if the team fails to hit the ground running. The non-shooting of Simmons will become a problem, too, if Butler struggles from the floor.
For fans, this may take some time getting used to. The Philadelphia 76ers had a great run last season and they have slid down the ladder a bit this year. Adding Butler will correct a few glaring issues but it won’t be done overnight.
What the 76ers have going for them is that they are one of the top scoring teams in the NBA. The big issue for them is that they are one of the worst defensive teams in the league currently, rating just 23rd in opponent points per game, per NBA.com. Butler is a great defender but is he better than Covington? The scoring Butler will bring will be a great addition but in comparison, will one player’s contributions outweigh what two did?
Butler has been known to get into the faces of his teammates. Can the young 76ers handle that? If not, how will head coach Brett Brown deal with that hurdle?
Despite not having a true closer, the team has relied on J.J. Redick and Embiid in the past. With Butler here, who gets the ball last? Redick is a vet and won’t mind but will Embiid take offense to the change of direction?
On the year, Butler has averaged 15.7 shot attempts per game. Embiid puts up 18.9 while Simmons comes in fourth with 11.4. That’s not a big problem considering Saric (10.2) and Covington (9.0) were not shy with the ball, either. What has to be learned and worked through will be where are Butler’s spots to get the ball, and can Butler find the open man himself?
The Philadelphia 76ers will finish out the month of November against six teams with losing records on their schedule.
While that’s good, it could also become a problem. The Philadelphia 76ers are not a really strong, cohesive defensive unit and they’ve been known to let inferior teams stick around. Another issue is blowing big leads. Should these trends continue to happen in the early stages, the trade will be looked upon as a bust.
In order for this team to reach its potential, there has to be some room for error. To think they will just unite like Voltron and dominate is asking a bit too much. Give it time for the Philadelphia 76ers, as the chemistry will eventually get there.