Philadelphia 76ers

How Jimmy Butler fits in with the Philadelphia 76ers

#Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler got the trade he was looking for.

Nearly two months after he met with the Minnesota Timberwolves to discuss his future with the team, Butler has been traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that includes Robert Covington and Dario Saric.

The 76ers weren't one of the three teams included on Butler's shortlist following that meeting in September, but it's not a huge surprise that they got involved given their situation.

To get an idea of what sort of impact Butler could make on the 76ers, let's take a look at what he brings to the table.

How good is Jimmy Butler?

Really good. Like widely-regarded as a top-15-player in the league good.

Put it this way: Butler is coming off of a season in which he averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He played in only 59 games due to injuries, but he led the Timberwolves to the third-best record in the Western Conference before he was sidelined with a meniscus injury on Feb. 23.

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Minnesota was an entirely different team when Butler was in the lineup in those games. According to NBA.com, they outscored opponents by an average of 8.3 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court with an elite offence and a robust defence.

Without him? The Timberwolves basically played like a lottery team.

On offense, Butler does his best work as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls. He's not much of a scoring threat from the perimeter coming off of screens, but he's practically automatic from midrange. Close to a third of his field goal attempts in a Timberwolves uniform were made up of 2-point pull-ups and he converted those opportunities at a similar rate as CJ McCollum, Victor Oladipo and DeMar DeRozan.

The biggest difference between them and Butler is that, at 6-foot-8, there aren't many perimeter defenders who can effectively contest his shot.

He knows how to use his size to his advantage as well, either by fading backwards when defenders go underneath the screen or leaning into his shot when they go over.

Butler's shooting touch helps him in other areas on offence, too.

He wasn't the most efficient scorer with his back to the basket last season, but Butler is comfortable attacking mismatches on the low block, usually by using his height to shoot over smaller defenders in the post.

The same goes for his work in isolation.

Butler has been among the league leaders in 1-on-1 scoring over the last two seasons. He can pull-up from midrange when defenders give him space or take them off the dribble for strong finishes at the basket, where he attempted a quarter of his field goals in Minnesota when they crowd him.

Butler is also a foul-drawing machine in those situations, surpassing even the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in how frequently he goes to the free throw line on isolation and post-up possessions.

The combination gives him the skills needed to punish teams that switch a lot on defence.

The biggest knock on Butler's offensive game is his 3-point shot. He's more than capable of spacing the floor, but he doesn't shoot often from the perimeter - Butler attempted only 1.8 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers per game last season, the same amount as Justise Winslow, Maurice Harkless and Zach LaVine - because he's at his best operating with the ball in his hands.

As for his impact on defence, Butler is incredibly valuable. According to ESPN, he finished third at his position in Defensive Real Plus-Minus last season, trailing only Andre Roberson and Victor Oladipo.

He finished in a similar position the year before: 2nd, trailing only Roberson.

With his size, speed and athleticism, Butler has the versatility to guard multiple positions and the physical tools to make plays on that end of the floor, recording a career-best 2.0 steals per game last season, followed by 2.4 steals per game so far this season.

It makes him the type of switchable wing every team is looking for in today's position-less NBA.

Butler was rewarded at end of the 2017-18 season with his fourth All-Defensive Second Team selection in five years. He even received some votes for Defensive Player of the Year despite missing 23 games, giving him the resume of one of the best two-way players in the league.

What Jimmy Butler brings to the 76ers

As ESPN's Zach Lowe noted, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard would've been a much cleaner fit with the 76ers than Butler, but he still has the potential to elevate them to a championship level.

Philadelphia was already an elite defensive team before the trade, so there's no reason why they can't return to their 2017-18 form with Butler now on the roster. Butler might look even better defensively with the 76ers than he did with the Timberwolves because he'll be able to play with more aggression knowing he has Embiid, one of the league's best rim protectors, controlling the paint behind him.

With Butler and Simmons in the backcourt and Embiid in the frontcourt, teams will have an incredibly tough time scoring against the 76ers. Their versatility will become especially important in potential matchups with the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs.

Butler's fit offensively isn't as clean - it rarely is when a high usage player is involved - but he gives the 76ers someone who can consistently create their own shot from the perimeter, which is something they've been in desperate need of.

The biggest problem? Butler isn't the 3-point shooter Robert Covington and Dario Saric are. That could muck up spacing for a team that was already struggling to spread the floor for its stars.

One solution would be to move JJ Redick back into the starting lineup, but that would likely mean moving Markelle Fultz to the bench. Another would be trying to acquire a shooter via trade, such as Kyle Korver, or wait for players to become available in the buyout market like they did last season.

If the 76ers can figure that out, the Eastern Conference might not be a three-team race for much longer.

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