Miami Heat‘s outspoken team leader Jimmy Butler has a say in which players the franchise moves to add, and amid rumors the Philadelphia 76ers will look to unload Ben Simmons following his disastrous playoff performance, there’s speculation the Sixers star could thrive in South Beach.
While Butler “loved” playing alongside Joel Embiid amid his six-month stint with the Sixers during the 2018-2019 season, The Athletic’s Zach Harper reported in September 2020, he “didn’t view [Simmons] on par with someone like himself or Embiid when it came to mental makeup.”
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The beef between Butler, 31, and Simmons, 24, once again resurfaced after the Sixers were eliminated in the 2020-21 NBA playoffs. Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman surmised on Tuesday that any possible trade between Philadelphia and Miami regarding Simmons would be a “non-starter” due to the players’ strained relationship:
It doesn’t matter what the necessary package might be, because it’s not happening, no matter how the 76ers approach their offseason with Ben Simmons. First there is the issue of Ben’s relationship with Jimmy Butler, dating to the time for the two as teammates in Philadelphia. That, alone, could make it a non-starter as a Heat talking point. Beyond that, as is, the Heat lack sufficient floor spacing with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy as their leading men. That is an aspect that Ben assuredly would not upgrade. Yes, the Heat have had significant success in dealing for distressed property previously. But in this case, it is far more likely that such distress will play out elsewhere.
There’s also the issue of Simmons’ enormous salary. The former No. 1 overall pick, who’s under contract with the Sixers until the 2025 season, is owed big money over the next four years: $33 million, $35.4 million, $37.8 million, and $40.3 million. All this for a guy who only shot the ball four times during Game 7 against the Hawks is a tough sell.
Simmons Played a Part in the Butler Leaving the Sixers: Report
Butler, who spoke openly about his frustration with the Sixers franchise on The JJ Redick Podcast in March 2020, and said he understood why Simmons was unhappy. To play one way the entire year and then switch it up during the playoffs, if he was Simmons, “I’d be pissed” too.
Butler was able to leave Philadelphia and join Miami as part of a four-team deal with the Heat, Sixers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Portland Trail Blazers. During his first year in South Beach, Butler proceeded to make the All-Star team and lead the Heat to the NBA Finals.
On June 21, Fox Sports’ Yaron Weitzman reported on the rift between Butler and Simmons:
According to league sources, Simmons’ frustration at being relegated to off-ball duty during the team’s 2019 second-round loss to the [Toronto] Raptors contributed to the front office’s decision to not re-sign Jimmy Butler. [former head coach Brett] Brown had handed Butler the keys to the offense, and management was worried how Simmons would handle having Butler around and monopolizing crunch-time playmaking duties for multiple years.
Butler Says His Time in Philadelphia ‘Didn’t Work the Way We Wanted it to Work’
In February 2020, Butler addressed the reports that he had issues with Embiid and Simmons to Sports Illustrated‘s Andrew Sharp.
“I didn’t have a problem with either one of them,” Butler said. “Still talk to those dudes. I wish them the absolute best. A career of great health, make as much money as you can, win as many championships as you can. I did not have a problem with any of those guys. It just didn’t work the way that we wanted it to work.”