Jimmy Butler may not be heading anywhere ahead of the NBA trade deadline, but it certainly can’t be completely ruled out yet. After all, the Philadelphia 76ers have shown virtually no interest in wasting time while trying to complete “the process.” And if general manager Elton Brand and company don’t believe Butler is a part of the team’s long-term outlook, or any of the negative rumors are true, then maybe a trade does happen.
Regardless, when ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan spoke about Butler recently on The Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe, her comments opened more than a few eyes. Andrew Porter of 94WIP.com revealed the quotes from the analyst which pointed to the Sixers star being “on thin ice.”
“I think he’s on thin ice, Zach,” MacMullan said of Butler. “I think he’s on thin ice. And I think he’s a very talented player and no one has ever called him soft either, he’s a very tough player. On paper, he would be exactly what you’d want on a team. He’s not a selfish player, I would never say that about him. He defends, boy does he defend. He gets at it. He makes good decisions on the offensive end of the floor. I don’t know him well enough to know, is it real or is it bravado—this whole idea that I’m going to take everyone on.
“I can tell you, having spent a couple of days in Philadelphia, they don’t love it.”
Maybe it’s overblown or maybe it’s spot on. Regardless, the topic of a possible Butler trade can’t be taken off the table until the February 7 deadline comes and goes. Which is why we’re going to take a look at a few blockbuster deals the Sixers could strike in order to bolster their NBA title chances and future outlook.
And what better place to start than with the New Orleans Pelicans, who appear to be in the early stages of a rebuild.
*Note: All trades created with ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine.
Sixers Go After Pelicans Star – But Not Anthony Davis
*Sixers send Miami’s 2021 first-round pick to Pelicans
The situation here isn’t cut-and-dry, and it’s not for Anthony Davis, which may frustrate plenty of Sixers fans. But while Philly can’t put together a trade offer as strong as the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics (in the offseason) for Davis, the Sixers could swing a deal to bring Jrue Holiday back.
Holiday was selected No. 17 overall by the Sixers in the 2009 NBA Draft, so this sets up a reunion with his former team. But the immediate question becomes whether or not the front office views the 28-year-old guard as the type of star who can push the team to the next level.
For what it’s worth, Holiday is averaging career-highs in points (21.2), assists (8.1) and rebounds (4.9) per game this season. He’s playing the best basketball of his career and could be an exceptional fit in the team’s offense while also providing a strong defensive presence. There’s a good chance the Sixers wouldn’t opt to go this route, but I’d be interested to see it play out.
Immediate Talent & Free Agency Preparation With Knicks Deal
While attempting to kick around a few trades which sent Butler to the New York Knicks, it sparked an interesting scenario. First, Butler’s previous list of possible teams included the Knicks so New York could have some level of interest in making this deal. Beyond that, it sets up a nice scenario for the Sixers.
It seems likely Kristaps Porzingis will return to action fairly soon, and he’d then provide an immediate playmaker at power forward next to Joel Embiid. This deal also gives the Sixers a backup center in Enes Kanter and a player to either start until Porzingis returns, or provide a spark off the bench in Noah Vonleh.
Each of these expiring contracts would help the Sixers win now while also freeing up cap space for the offseason. They can then go after a top free agent, or attempt to re-sign Porzingis if things work out. Beyond that, they have a young guard in Frank Ntilikina who could benefit from a fresh start.
Sixers Swing for Pistons’ Blake Griffin
*Sixers send 2019 first-round pick (unprotected) to Pistons and Miami’s 2021 first-round pick
It’s going to cost the Sixers draft picks to get Blake Griffin and I’m not entirely convinced this would persuade the Detroit Pistons to do the deal. If Fultz’s stock were slightly higher and the Pistons had reason to believe Butler would re-sign, it would help the outlook, but the draft picks help ease the concerns somewhat. Detroit also needs to figure out their long-term plan at point guard, so taking a chance on Fultz and the potential upside could be worth it.
Another huge question mark is how Griffin would look next to Embiid, but the idea of those two pairing up is exciting if it works out. This is likely the least realistic option, but it’s a deal that could be interesting for the two sides, especially if things are sour between Griffin and the Pistons currently.