NBA free agency has turned into one of the most exciting spectacles in all of sports. 2019’s free-agent period didn’t disappoint with one of the most talented pools available in recent memory: players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving all switched teams.
One of those very talented players was Jimmy Butler, who signed with the Miami Heat for a deal worth $142 million over four years.
Butler leaves a Philadelphia 76ers team he had just been traded to this season. Despite the disappointment of losing a player as great as Jimmy Butler, there may be a few reasons for 76ers fans to rejoice at the news. Let’s take a look at why that is.
The Sixers acquired Al Horford and Josh Richardson
With the money they saved not signing Jimmy Butler, the Sixers had money to spend. First, they signed veteran Celtics forward Al Horford. Horford is one of the most dependable big men in the league, with career averages of 14.1 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. He’s been selected as an all-star five times.
Apart from the positive impact he’ll have on the 76ers as a team, they’ll also be relieved to not have to play against him. Horford was particularly effective at guarding Sixers forward Joel Embiid. Horford’s teams went 10-3 against Embiid’s teams when the two squared off.
In the Butler sign and trade, the Sixers acquired Josh Richardson. After being drafted 40th overall in 2015, he became a solid offensive weapon in Miami, averaging 16.6 points per game last season. He also shot 36% from three-point range. Because the Sixers are starved for long-distance shooting, this should help replace the void left by Jimmy Butler.
By letting one big statistical contributor walk in favor of two smaller but substantial contributors, the Sixers may have made their team even deeper at multiple positions.
More time at point guard for Ben Simmons
Without Jimmy Butler in the mix, this gives guard Ben Simmons the ability to move into the role of the full-time point guard. Simmons is an extremely gifted player, but he does have some weaknesses. He’s not a great shooter and thrives when he has the ball in the hands, able to penetrate off the dribble.
Jimmy Butler is also a ball-dominant guard. There are only so many shots to go around and one ball to play with. While no one can deny Butler’s talent and results, jettisoning him will give Simmons more chances to control the ball.
From a stylistic perspective, losing Butler may play to Simmons’ strengths. It’s an example of addition by subtraction for the Sixers.
Jimmy Butler is getting older
Heading into the 2019 season, Butler will be 29 years old. He’ll be 30 by the time the season kicks off. While most think he still has plenty of game left in the tank, most guards tend to decline after the age of 30.
Of course, there are few players who improve as they age, but guards tend to drop off faster than big men.
This season will be Butler’s 10th in the league. He probably has at least another season or two of playing at an extremely high level. After that? Based on the trends associated with most guards in the league, it’s a crapshoot. He may defy the odds, but more than likely his athleticism will begin to waver.
That’s not to say he won’t be a productive player well into his 30’s, but he may be hardly worthy of the big contract numbers he received from Miami. 76ers fans will probably see a better return on the team’s investment into Simmons, Richardson, and Tobias Harris.