There are assuredly Sixers fans that will be disappointed to see Jimmy Butler go.
Butler was outstanding for the Sixers in the playoffs and helped lead the team to a Game 7 against the eventual NBA champion Raptors.
But the four-time All-Star is gone thanks to a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat.
Welcome, Josh Richardson.
The Sixers' newest wing is young, cheap and a pretty damn good player. He’ll turn 26 in September and he’ll make $10,116,576 in 2019-20 and $10,865,952 in 2020-21 with a player option at $11,615,328 for 2022. Since being drafted in the second round (40th overall) in the 2015 draft out of Tennessee, he’s been lauded for his defense but has steadily improved his offensive game.
From a defensive standpoint, you’re getting a player that’s emerged as one of the better wing defenders in the league. In a league where positionless basketball rules the day and long, switchable defenders are all the rage, Richardson is an ideal fit. You’ll remember the Sixers last season went to a more switch-heavy scheme with less-than-stellar results. Replacing JJ Redick, who signed with the New Orleans Pelicans, with a player like Richardson should help a whole lot. He’s also a maximum effort type of player who doesn’t take possessions off.
While defense has been his calling card since he got into the league, he’s developed more of his offensive game as the Heat’s roster has declined. He averaged career-highs in points (16.6), assists (4.1) and rebounds (3.6) per game while posting his highest usage rate (20.3) last season. The assists stand out most as Richardson was relied on more as a playmaker. His 1.5 turnovers a game is also a solid number considering his high usage rate.
The jumper has been inconsistent over his career, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism in that department. While his three-point percentage dipped from 37.8 to 35.7 this season, he also took over two more attempts a contest. It’s also worth noting that his free throw shooting has improved every season since he’s been in the league. He was at 86.1 percent last season, a number that borders on elite.
Think about how much more things will be opened up for Richardson, as well. With all due respect to retirement tour Dwyane Wade, Miami wasn’t littered with explosive offensive options. With players like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford, Richardson will be surrounded by skilled playmakers and shot makers. That should take the pressure off of him while also creating space on the floor.
While the Sixers likely aren’t quite done, the starting five of Richardson, Embiid, Simmons, Harris and Horford is an awfully good start to free agency.
While Richardson can’t be expected to provide what Butler did, he could become a pivotal piece as the Sixers try to assert themselves among the East’s elite.
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