Jimmy Butler

Philly adds some much-needed toughness with Butler trade

Philly adds some much-needed toughness with Butler trade

SALT LAKE CITY – Jimmy Butler is a card-carrying member of the talented two-way club, one of the more exclusive basketball groupings you’ll find among NBA players.

And with Philadelphia reportedly agreeing to terms on a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for his services, there’s no question adding him will be a major upgrade for the Sixers roster.

But talent aside, there is a greater benefit for the 76ers that goes beyond what he does stat-wise when he’s on the floor.

Butler brings a level of toughness to the Sixers that, more than anything else, gives them every reason to believe that they are now on par – if not ahead of – Boston and Toronto for supremacy in the East.

Butler is a talented bad-ass who has no patience for players who aren’t about that bad-ass baller life.

Karl-Anthony Towns is a gifted player, but time has shown both he and Andrew Wiggins don’t play with the kind of edge that breeds greatness beyond just getting to the postseason.

Maybe it’ll come in time, but it ain’t there now even as Butler did what he could to draw it out of them.

With Butler, Philly has the perfect addition to a team that desperately needed a leader besides Joel Embiid, who is not only talented but also plays consistently with an edginess that makes both foes and, at times, teammates, uncomfortable.

What will be interesting to see going forward is how Ben Simmons responds to Butler’s tough love.

There is no one who should question Simmons’ talent.

A legit 6-foot-10 playmaker with a strong frame and above-average court vision is a dream come true for any team.

But as we saw in the playoff series against the Celtics last spring, Simmons’ physical strengths far surpass his mental toughness.

C's forward Marcus Morris made a point of getting inside Simmons’ head every chance he had in that series, and it worked.

That’s not going to happen so easily with Butler around, a player who has the talent and toughness to go at anyone in the league and take some of that pressure off Simmons.

As for the Celtics, don’t look for Danny Ainge and company to make a move to combat what the Sixers are doing.

There is still a strong belief within the organization that the group they have currently assembled, is still good enough to get to the NBA Finals even with Butler in the fold in Philly.

Kyrie Irving has been good this season.

And ever since Celtics legend/Hall of Famer/NBC Sports Boston analyst Tommy Heinsohn said Irving looked a little overweight, Irving has responded by absolutely crushing it on a nightly basis.

Gordon Hayward continues to improve, passing yet another milestone on Thursday and Friday on the road to his return to All-Star form by playing in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Jayson Tatum has been up and down, but he has shown himself to be an elite player when it matters most – the playoffs.

Boston’s bench has been strong most of this season and will be instrumental in whatever success the C's have this season and in the playoffs.

But make no mistake about it.

The addition of Butler to Philly is a game-changer for the Eastern Conference which already had legit competition near the top.

Now, the stakes are even higher with the Sixers adding their own bad-ass baller to the mix, which will make the race to the top of the Eastern Conference an even bigger, wilder, roller-coaster ride.

Buckle up, NBA fans.

This should be fun!

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Top-heavy East gets heavier with Jimmy Butler going to 76ers

Top-heavy East gets heavier with Jimmy Butler going to 76ers

A top-heavy Eastern Conference got a bit heavier Saturday with reports that the Philadelphia 76ers were finalizing a deal to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In adding Butler, the 76ers essentially made the big-swing move they whiffed on this summer. For Philadelphia, that comes at the cost of some very good young talent in Dario Saric and Robert Covington, according to reports from ESPN and the Athletic, but the team keeps its core talent in place while adding an All-Star-caliber player in Butler.

If the Sixers were perceived to be lagging behind East favorites Boston, Milwaukee, and Toronto, then this blockbuster certainly injects them into the mix.

Philadelphia had already won six of its past eight with help from some eye-popping numbers from All-Star big man Joel Embiid and was starting to regain the NBA’s attention after an underwhelming 2-3 start to the season.

Butler’s arrival doesn’t solve the Sixers’ most obvious issue - a lack of shooting - but that’s always something the team can address further down the road. What Butler’s addition does is injects an obvious two-way talent and a 29-year-old with six years of playoff experience onto an intriguing young roster.

After coming up empty this summer with hopes of attracting a game-changer like LeBron James or Paul George to pair alongside Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers now add a player from a slightly lower tier of talent. How will he fit in Philadelphia? Coach Brett Brown can figure that out on the fly.

What this move does is announce that the Sixers are not content to simply wait out another season to truly contend. They are legitimate playoff threat with a ceiling that elevates if all things click with the arrival of Butler.

Celtics fans will wonder if Butler’s personality could cause some issues but winning typically keeps players happy. There will be kinks to work out and roles to establish, and the Sixers’ depth is depleted a bit by the move, but it’s a risk that Philadelphia had to take in this post-Process era.

For the Celtics, the Butler trade adds another contender to a conference that many had suggested was ripe for Boston to claim after LeBron's departure this summer. Instead, the Celtics have stumbled a bit out of the gate while trying to figure out how all their parts work together when fully healthy, all while the Bucks and Raptors hit the ground running.

Boston still has the deepest roster of the East contenders — though a healthy Kawhi Leonard makes it a close call with Toronto — but the Celtics have yet to harness their talents with a 7-5 start.

The Celtics scored an opening-night victory over the Sixers, who they eliminated in five games in the East semis last season. The two teams meet again on Christmas Day in Boston.

For now, the Celtics can’t worry about what their primary rivals are doing. Boston has to figure itself out and then it can assess the rest of the East further down the road.

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