This week’s trade that brought Jimmy Butler from the Timberwolves puts the Sixers in win-now mode, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. It gives the team a third star to join with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but removes the luxury of developing younger players such as Markelle Fultz.
Butler displayed his ability to be a difference maker in Saturday’s win over the Hornets. He blocked a shot by Kemba Walker late in overtime, then sank a game-winning 3-pointer.
“I think it’s the beginning of something different now,” coach Brett Brown said. “I think there’s a cleansing and sort of a base that has been built. We are very proud of the culture, the standards, the rules and all that stuff. … I think there is a starting point now that’s more pronounced as far as a base to take off than there has ever been.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- There was a tense atmosphere in the Celtics‘ locker room following Saturday’s one-sided loss to the Jazz, relays Jay King of The Athletic. Coach Brad Stevens inserted his end-of-the-bench players with about nine minutes left in the game, then questioned his team’s toughness in a post-game interview. It’s the latest bump in the road for the Celtics, who have stumbled to a 9-7 start after being the preseason favorites to win the East. Kyrie Irving suggested the problem may stem from younger players forcing shots because they’re trying to duplicate the success they had last year when they had their roles expanded because of injuries.
- Tobias Harris would be a sensible free agent target for the Nets, especially if he continues playing the way he did Saturday, writes Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily. The Clippers forward and Long Island native lit up Brooklyn for 27 points and eight rebounds, showing that he would make a nice addition to the Nets’ lineup. “I’m just focused on the team that I put a jersey on every single night for,” he said when asked about the possibility of coming to Brooklyn. “I think it wouldn’t be fair if I had my mind somewhere else at this time. I’m just focused on helping this team and let’s see how far we can go.”
- Someone will be pulled from the Nets‘ rotation when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returns from his ankle injury, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lewis adds that coach Kenny Atkinson doesn’t want to give regular minutes to more than 10 players per night.
Here are Thursday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Bucks have recalled Sterling Brown from the Wisconsin Herd, the team announced (Twitter link). Brown scored 23 points and made five threes in the Herd’s loss to the Mad Ants on Wednesday.
- The Sixers reassigned Jonah Bolden to the Delaware Blue Coats, tweets Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Bolden has played six games with Philadelphia this season.
- The Pistons assigned and then later recalled Henry Ellenson, Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown, announcing the news in a pair of press releases.
- The Celtics assigned Guerschon Yabusele and Brad Wanamaker to the Maine Red Claws, the team announced (Twitter link). The Red Claws played the Raptors 905 on Thursday, with the Celtics set to play the Raptors on Friday.
- The Wizards have assigned Thomas Bryant to the Capital City Go-Go, announcing the news on their website. Bryant will travel with the Go-Go for their game against the Wisconsin Herd on Friday.
- The Grizzlies recalled then assigned Jevon Carter to the Memphis Hustle, the team’s G League affiliate, announcing the news on Twitter.
- The Magic have recalled Isaiah Briscoe and Melvin Frazier Jr. from the Lakeland Magic, the team tweets. Orlando hosts the Lakers on Sunday.
Four days after the Timberwolves and Sixers first agreed to a blockbuster Jimmy Butler trade, and two days after that deal was officially completed, Butler made his Philadelphia debut on Wednesday night while Robert Covington and Dario Saric made their first appearances as members of the Wolves.
Butler had a fairly quiet first game for the Sixers, posting just 14 points and four rebounds in 33 minutes as his new team lost to the Magic, 111-106. Despite the loss, head coach Brett Brown and the 76ers weren’t discouraged, pointing out that getting everyone on the same page in the wake of Butler’s arrival will take a little time.
“I mean, it’s hard,” Brown said after the game, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. “He comes in, and he’s trying to do the right thing. You’re trying to put in some plays this morning at shootaround. He’s trying to figure everybody else out, [and] they’re trying to figure him out. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take time. I think, in general, you sort of see what you have in him, and it’s incredibly exciting.”
Things went better in Minnesota, where Covington and Saric combined for 22 points and 10 rebounds en route to a 107-100 win over New Orleans. As Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune writes, Covington got an early taste of Tom Thibodeau‘s tendency to ride his starters hard, playing a game-high 41 minutes for Minnesota. “As Thibs said, ‘Being out there on the court is the best way to learn about your new teammates,'” Covington told reporters with a smile after the game. Meanwhile, Thibodeau suggested after the game that Covington’s defensive effort made it easy to give him a major role immediately.
“I knew we could use him right away because he brings so much defensively,” Thibodeau said. “And he goes so hard … if you go hard enough it’s going to make up for a lot of things, including being new to a team.”
Here’s more on the Sixers’ and Timberwolves’ new additions, and how each team is being impacted by the changes:
- Time is on the Sixers‘ side as they adjust to the arrival of Butler, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. With the start of the playoffs still five months away, the team has plenty of time to work out the kinks, and Butler is confident that’ll happen before too long. “How tough will it be? Nah, it’s not hard at all,” Butler said. “So far we all get along. I think that’s the first thing — we all want each other to be great. We’re all talking about where we’re supposed to be and what we see out there on the floor. I’m telling you, it’s coming sooner rather than later. We’re going to be just fine.”
- In an interesting piece for HoopsHype, Alex Kennedy goes behind the scenes on Butler’s first couple days as a Sixer, sharing details on how the 29-year-old and his new Philadelphia teammates found out about the trade on Saturday. Kennedy also reports that the 76ers held a team dinner on Tuesday night in the hopes that Butler, fellow newcomer Justin Patton, other recent additions like Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, and the team’s incumbent players could all get to know each other a little better.
- With Butler no longer on the team, Karl-Anthony Towns is ready to lead the Timberwolves in his own way, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.com, who writes that Towns is hoping for a looser environment in Minnesota. “All those teams I was on that were successful were the ones that everyone had love for each other and had fun,” Towns told Andrews. “Things that seem minuscule — joking around, laughing, conversing, all those things that seem childish — that is what builds camaraderie.”
Tim Bontemps of ESPN is reporting that the Sixers, fresh off a trade for All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, will start Butler, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, and Wilson Chandler against the Magic in tonight’s game in Orlando, meaning last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz, is now officially coming off the bench after starting the team’s first 15 games.
However, head coach Brett Brown is still maintaining an outward showing of support for Fultz, saying “He’s great, he’s great. He understands, and we can’t say this enough, [Sixers general manager Elton Brand] said this … He’s got so many people in this program that genuinely care for him… He’s done nothing wrong. He’s done nothing wrong.”
Per Bontemps, Fultz will now serve as Simmons’ primary backup, likely getting somewhere in the range of 10 to 15 minutes per night. Fultz has played better when not playing without Simmons and therefore having the ball in his hands more, so it will be interesting to see how he handles this new role.
Fultz remains positive, saying “my mindset, as soon as I step on the court, is to help my team win. Every time I step on the court, every time I go in the game, my goal is to be a great teammate and help my team get the W.”
The majority of this week’s analysis on the trade package the Sixers sent the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade has focused on Dario Saric and Robert Covington, and rightly so. Those are the two players expected to contribute to the Wolves right away and to become potential long-term building blocks for the franchise.
However, a third player, Jerryd Bayless, was also sent to Minnesota in the deal, and the impact his inclusion in the deal will have on the Sixers shouldn’t be overlooked.
As we detailed in our financial breakdown of the Butler trade, the deal couldn’t have been completed without the inclusion of Bayless. Saric’s and Covington’s salaries weren’t enough to match Butler’s $20MM+ cap hit on their own, and salary-matching became even trickier once Justin Patton was attached to Butler. In order to make the trade work financially, the 76ers had to include Bayless and his $8.58MM cap charge.
The loss of Bayless is hardly a debilitating one for the Sixers from an on-court perspective. The veteran guard has only played in 42 games over the last three seasons, with a knee injury currently keeping him on the shelf. Even when healthy, Bayless was unlikely to play much of a role for a 76ers team that already had three point guards in its rotation, in Ben Simmons, T.J. McConnell, and Markelle Fultz. If including him in the Butler deal was the final piece to acquire an All-NBA player, it was, of course, a no-brainer for Philadelphia.
Still, Bayless’ lack of a rotation role, his expiring contract, and his mid-level salary made him an ideal trade chip for a Sixers team that still needs to add shooting depth. Because he wasn’t part of Philadelphia’s rotation, the team could afford to give him up, and because he had no guaranteed money on his deal beyond this season, he would appeal to potential trade partners who didn’t want to compromise their future flexibility.
For instance, the Sixers reportedly remain interested in Cavaliers sharpshooter Kyle Korver. Without Bayless, who was a part of the Korver trade discussions between the two teams in July, the path to acquiring Korver and his $7.56MM salary becomes trickier. In order to meet the league’s salary-matching rules, the Sixers would have to send out at least $4.26MM+.
The 76ers have seven players earning more than that amount. Of those seven, Butler, Simmons, Joel Embiid, and J.J. Redick aren’t going anywhere; dealing Mike Muscala or Wilson Chandler wouldn’t improve the team’s depth, since the team is already relying on those players to be key rotation pieces; and Fultz’s stock hasn’t fallen so far that Philadelphia would move him for Korver.
That means in order to match Korver’s salary, the Sixers would have to package at least a couple lesser-paid players. The expiring contracts for Patton ($2.67MM) and Furkan Korkmaz ($1.74MM) would work, and would probably be the most likely package – along with a draft pick or two – if Philadelphia makes a play for Korver or another shooter in his salary range, such as Jeremy Lamb or Wayne Ellington.
The Sixers’ salary-matching options would become more complicated if they wanted to go after a player with a higher salary though. For instance, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer suggested in a podcast that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is one player on the team’s radar, as Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype relays. Caldwell-Pope has a $12MM cap hit, which would be virtually impossible for the Sixers to match without using a rotation player like Chandler or a prospect like Fultz, now that Bayless is no longer on their books.
There are plenty of ways the Sixers could get creative on the trade market, and it’s worth noting that the team may not even need to make any deals — after all, last season’s impact in-season additions, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, were both signed on the buyout market.
Still, the Sixers can’t count on striking gold with players like Ilyasova and Belinelli again, and not having Bayless on the roster will limit their flexibility to some extent. Sending Bayless to the Timberwolves was necessary to land Butler, and the Sixers would do it over again every day of the week, but it will be interesting to see whether a player who was an afterthought in that deal will hamstring the franchise’s trade options later in the season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.
12:08pm: Spears has since deleted his tweet about Rush’s Sixers workout, so it’s unclear whether or not that audition is on the team’s schedule for next week. Either way, it’s safe to say that Philadelphia will explore all its options when it comes to adding shooting to its roster.
12:03pm: Veteran NBA sharpshooter Brandon Rush has a workout lined up with the Sixers next week, a source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). According to Spears, Rush suffered a broken thumb on September 10, but has since recovered from that injury.
A previous report had suggested that Rush was among a group of players who worked out for the Timberwolves on September 10, so the injury may have occurred during that session. Before breaking his thumb, the 33-year-old also drew some interest from the Pacers and Warriors, Spears reports.
Rush, the 13th overall pick back in 2008, has appeared in 481 career regular season games for the Pacers, Warriors, Jazz, and Timberwolves. While his overall career numbers – 6.8 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 22.0 MPG) – are modest, Rush has always been a reliable outside shooter, with a career .402 3PT%. He signed a 10-day contract with the Trail Blazers last season, but didn’t see the court and hasn’t played in an NBA game since the end of the 2016/17 campaign.
Having traded two of their strongest long-distance marksmen to Minnesota in their blockbuster deal for Jimmy Butler, the 76ers are in the market for shooting help and have an open roster spot. General manager Elton Brand said on Tuesday that Philadelphia will be patient and evaluate all its options for that roster opening, so I wouldn’t expect the club to immediately lock up Rush to a contract.
Philadelphia remains “highly” interested in Kyle Korver, as Marc Stein writes in his weekly newsletter for The New York Times. Stein notes that it will be difficult for Philadelphia to acquire Korver now that Jerryd Bayless is no longer on the team. Bayless, who is on an expiring contract worth $8.6MM, was sent to Minnesota in the Butler deal.
Korver signed a three-year, $22MM contract with the Cavaliers during the summer of 2017. LeBron James has since left The Land, making him an awkward fit on a rebuilding squad.
Philadelphia still has options, as a package of Mike Muscala and Zhaire Smith would financially work for a Korver trade. With Muscala seeing meaningful minutes this year, it’s hard to see the Sixers including him or their promising 2018 first-rounder in a deal for the 37-year-old.
Swapping Markelle Fultz for Korver would also work financially, though the team’s front office appears to be taking a patient approach with the former No. 1 overall pick, which makes a Fultz trade unlikely at the moment.
Jimmy Butler made his first public comments as a Sixer today, speaking to reporters at a press conference introducing him to the media. Butler, who referred to himself as an “incredible” human being and teammate when asked about his past relationships with teammates, said he expects Philadelphia to be an ideal fit for him, as ESPN’s Ian Begley relays.
“When guys go out there and they know how to play basketball, which everybody on this roster does, it’s all going to fall into place,” Butler said. “I don’t think that anybody is going to step on anybody’s toes. I think everybody still has the same job to do and everybody’s expected to be the same player that they’ve always been.”
Butler added that he likes the idea of him, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid making up a “Big Three” for the Sixers, and also insisted he’s not focusing on maxing out his earnings by signing a five-year maximum salary contract at season’s end.
“I already got enough money to have me and my family for the rest of my life,” Butler said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link). “It’s not about the money. I’ve got to be able to love where I’m at and have a great chance to win a championship.”
Here’s more on the Sixers:
- As Begley details, new Sixers GM Elton Brand said on Tuesday that he spoke to several of Butler’s former teammates and coaches and they all had nothing but praise for the 29-year-old, making the decision to pull the trigger on the trade an “easy” one. “We hope he sees a fit here. We hope that we see the fit there this season because we know what kind of talent he is,” Brand said. “He’s a superstar player so we’re definitely looking forward to having those (contract) discussions, but we can’t have those yet.”
- Asked about the newly-opened spot on the Sixers’ 15-man roster, Brand indicated that the team will take its time to “evaluate the landscape” rather than rushing to add a 15th man, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Bodner had previously suggested (via Twitter) that Philadelphia will likely simply focus on adding a shooter with that opening rather than specifically targeting a power forward.
- It remains to be seen how Markelle Fultz‘s role will be impacted by Butler’s arrival, but head coach Brett Brown remains committed to developing the former No. 1 overall pick, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “He’s got insulation around him, and he’s got a coach that believes in him, that will continue to play and develop him, and that’s that,” Brown said of Fultz.
- Speaking of Fultz, he and trainer Drew Hanlen are apparently no longer on speaking terms, tweets Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. Fultz worked with Hanlen throughout the summer, but their relationship reportedly deteriorated within the last month. Liberty Ballers provided a few more details in a pair of tweets.
Jimmy Butler is officially a member of the Sixers, and appears to be on track to make his debut with his new team on Wednesday in Orlando. As Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com writes, head coach Brett Brown views the newest 76er as a “perfect fit” for the city and for the team, given his fierce competitiveness and willingness to play hard-nosed defense.
“We have a championship window that’s centered around the continued progression of our talented young core, as well as our ability to add elite players who elevate our program,” Brand said. “In Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, we have two of the NBA’s top 20 players. Now, we’ve added a third top-20 player in Jimmy Butler, who is one of the NBA’s very best on both ends of the floor. This move further strengthens our pursuit of a championship and gives us a formidable combination to take on the league’s top teams.”
We have several more leftover items and reactions related to the Butler deal to pass along, so we’ll round them up right here:
- After reportedly generating friction with teammates in Chicago and Minnesota, Butler may find the Sixers to be the perfect fit at the perfect time, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.
- ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry explores why Butler won’t solve Philadephia’s biggest issue, while Chris Mannix of SI.com suggests that “The Process” has led to “The Gamble” in Philadelphia, with the Sixers taking a risk on Butler.
- Having been put in a tough spot by Butler’s trade request, the Timberwolves managed to get good value in their deal with Philadelphia by landing Robert Covington and Dario Saric, says Britt Robson of The Athletic.
- In the wake of the Butler trade, Anthony Tolliver says that it feels like a cloud hovering over the Timberwolves has lifted, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets.
- Reports throughout the Butler saga suggested that Tom Thibodeau wanted players who could help the team win now, and the Timberwolves‘ head coach and president of basketball operations confirmed as much on Monday, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “We wanted quality players. That was important for us,” Thibodeau said. “[We get] two starters [Covington and Saric] off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young. … Once we get to that point where we felt we were getting multiple rotational players, we felt it would be time to execute the deal.”
- Covington posted a message on his Instagram account thanking the Sixers and the fans in Philadelphia for his time with the organization. “It’s been a incredible journey and I definitely wouldn’t change it for the world,” Covington wrote. “I built friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. Now a new journey awaits and I’m thankful for this opportunity.”
- In case you missed it on Monday, we relayed reactions from Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins on the Butler deal, more comments from Thibodeau, details on the Pelicans’ and Rockets’ trade offers, and a note on the Nets’ involvement in Butler trade talks.