On one hand, it’s almost incredible to realize Jimmy Butler has been a member of the Philadelphia 76ers for over two months now. But on the other, thanks to all the rumors and drama surrounding the situation, it’s likely felt like a full year for some people. Butler’s time with the Sixers has been interesting, to put it gently. But in the grand scheme of things, the team is 28-16 currently, so even putting the drama aside, something is working.
While Butler remains heavily-scrutinized by the media, portions of the fanbase and a good chunk of NBA fans, it doesn’t change anything with the current situation. The Sixers made a blockbuster trade to acquire the All-Star guard and they want to make it work. Whether it will or not remains to be seen, but that may all come down to how the Butler pairing with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons plays out.
During an exclusive with Marc J. Spears on The Undefeated, Butler opened up on anything and everything you could imagine. This included the topic of Embiid and Simmons, and he offered a brutally honest outlook.
“Playing with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is great. I think there’s a lot of bumps in the road because when you here, everything’s a little bit different. That’s not to say that’s a problem in any way, shape or form, it’s just, you got three guys that have been really good players at certain points in their careers, and now you’re putting them all together on the same team.” Butler said, per Spears
“We’re trying to figure it out. We’re sitting down talking about it. We’re trying to be about it out there on the basketball court. And it’s working. We just got to keep going. We got to keep talking.”
If there’s one thing Butler has always been, it’s honest. For better or worse, the current Sixers guard pulls no punches with his thoughts.
Butler’s Outlook on Sixers Future With Embiid & Simmons
There was cautious optimism that the trio of stars could thrive while playing together after the Sixers made the deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Since that point, the optimism has wavered a bit, but it’s still alive within a good portion of the fanbase.
Most importantly, it seems to still be there with Butler, who offered a fairly positive outlook in the same exclusive on The Undefeated.
“We have some really good players in JJ [Redick], Landry [Shamet], Will [Wilson Chandler], you can go all the way down the line. But I think it definitely does start with us three. We want to do well. We’re trying to do right. We want each other to be successful. As long as we keep doing that, we can be a really good team.” Butler says, via Spears.
If the stars align and Philly’s new “Big 3” prove capable of excelling together, then this team has a championship outlook and an incredibly bright future. The upside and potential for the group are high, although they still need a few additional pieces, specifically in terms of depth off the bench.
Butler’s Numbers Down in Philly
When the report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski came to light that Butler “aggressively challenged” Sixers coach Brett Brown, it resulted in everyone taking a deep dive into the numbers. While Butler very well may have questioned Brown on his role in the offense, some argued that he had a valid point.
General manager Elton Brand and the front office struck a deal for Butler with the expectation that he’d push the team to the next level. But (very) often, Butler is taking a backseat in the offense. He’s averaged 18.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and his shot attempts are down by 1.5 per game from last season. That may not seem like a lot, but the All-Star isn’t being utilized his strengths.
After all, Butler’s numbers with the Sixers are helped by two games in which Embiid didn’t play and he scored a combined 68 points. So while an average of 18.7 points per game isn’t bad, when it’s over a 25 game span and two of his best performances came without Embiid, it shows something probably isn’t right.