Kawhi Leonard’s Game 7 jumper barely took its fourth bounce off the rim and already the offseason rumors are swirling.
On Thursday, we had two different rumors suggest that the Los Angeles Lakers are a strong candidate to land Jimmy Butler. One report included a recruiting pitch by LeBron James and another saying Butler would "join the Lakers in a second if they offered him a max deal." That also aligns with a report from during the season.
But given what the Sixers can offer Butler and James’ contract situation, the Sixers are the better fit.
There are certainly dots that connect Butler with L.A. The fact that the Lakers have the best player in the world in LeBron is obviously appealing. Though the franchise has fallen on rough times, there is a rich history there. Butler reportedly “once imagined” playing for the Lakers and is often seen rocking a Dodgers cap. Butler has also talked about wanting to open his own winery when he retires. L.A. is six hours from Napa Valley, but it’s a lot closer than Philly.
With all that said, the Sixers are still in an advantageous spot. Because they acquired Butler in a trade, they own his Bird Rights. That means they’re the only team that can offer Butler a fifth year on his next contract. Butler has openly stated that he’d like to retire after his age-35 season. With his 30th birthday upcoming, a deal with the Sixers could give him security up until that retirement — and pay him pretty damn handsomely.
The opportunity to play with James is attractive, but James will be 34 next season and only has two years left on his deal with a player option for a third. With the Sixers, he has two young stars that haven’t even reached their prime and should be in Philadelphia for a long time. While a Butler and James pairing immediately makes the Lakers better, the Sixers were a couple bounces — and perhaps a healthy Joel Embiid — away from being in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Talking about this roster, we just had a slight hiccup,” Butler said. “But what hurts most about this loss is we had a great group of guys that would ride for one another. It was special. We enjoyed playing with each other. You couldn’t mess with anybody on the team because somebody was always going to be there, in your face. But to think that this roster might not be the exact same next year, that’s what really hurts.”
Beyond money and the opportunity to win, Butler truly emerged as a leader for the Sixers. Given his personality, that seems like something he relishes. Would he have that same leadership opportunity playing with James?
We also can’t underestimate the relationship Butler developed with Brown. Player and coach grew to understand each other. Given Butler’s abrasive personality, that can’t be understated. Will Frank Vogel be able to develop that kind of connection?
While the Sixers look like the better fit, there’s no telling what’s in Butler’s mind and heart. He mentioned during his exit interview how important keeping the people in his inner circle happy is. It’s fair to note that Butler also did forge a bond with player development specialist Remy Ndiaye and player development coach Lindsey Harding, both of whom can be spotted in videos on Butler’s YouTube channel — which is super entertaining, on a side note.
Buckle up, Sixers fans. This is just the beginning of the silly season. Things are going to get weird.
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