76ers are overcoming early season struggles
After a mediocre start and many roster changes the Sixers are finally playing up to their potential.
Opening up the season with a loss to the Celtics 105-87 indicated there was room for improvement. A 4-4 start to the season had the team as an early borderline playoff contender but it did not appear they had improved from the 2017-2018 season, in which they finished with 52-30 and advanced to the Conference Semifinals. It was clear the Sixers returned virtually the same team as last season minus minor subtractions in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. But the additions of a healthy Markelle Fultz and Wilson Chandler were projected to cancel those subtractions out but the team was still underperforming. Partially because Markelle Fultz has continued to deal with shoulder injuries and miss time. The team is unsure when he will return to the court but the success of the team should not fall solely on having Fultz healthy. With these factors and the team’s overall play it was beginning to appear they needed to change things up.
Philly had many options on the free agent market and players on the trading block, but ultimately Jimmy Butler was their best decision. Jimmy Butler had expressed his interest to be moved dating all the way back to the offseason. Finally, the 76ers agreed to a trade for Jimmy Butler, also receiving Justin Patton in the deal. The 76ers had to trade away Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves, filling a need for both teams. Butler immediately addresses the 76ers lack of perimeter playmaking and perimeter scoring and adds to a team that has success with playing strong defense and getting to the basket on offense.
When Brett Brown was recently interviewed by Sixers Wire’s Nathan Beighle about his thoughts on why Butler is a fit with this team he said, “It’s his physicality and grit that I believe will help Philly potentially take down the Celtics, which many claim as the Eastern Conference’s best team even with their underwhelming start to the season.” So far, it is safe to say the Philadelphia 76ers have won the trade improving their overall record going 10-2 with Butler in the lineup. They are winning games and enjoying a lot of individual success but this team is not complete. Joel Embiid has made it known he is unhappy with his new role following the addition of Butler. His averages for the season are down with Butler on the roster, but he needs to recognize the overall team’s success is more important compared to his personal success. Brett Brown and the team are still figuring out how to use Butler and how he fits in with other stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but when they do, this trio will be up there with the best trios across the league. Since the Miami Heat formed their “Big Three” with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in 2010 and even before that, teams were beginning to form these types of teams so this move gives the Sixers a very talented “Big Three” making an above average team in the east and putting them as championship contenders for the entire league. It will be interesting to follow how the Sixers play against top level competition throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
Liam Curran and Andrew Purdy contributed to this article.