Free Agent Report: Jimmy Butler

This past Friday, Jimmy Butler made a crucial step towards the massive contract awaiting him by declining his player option with the Philadelphia 76ers.

As a result, it sets him loose to a pool of determined bidders.

Rumors circulate: the Lakers and Sixers hold strong mutual interests in the 29-year-old wing. Jimmy was unhappy with his role in Philadelphia. He wants to live in a warmer climate. There are many uncertainties however, and with those, Butler’s trajectory may not be so hard to pin down.

Butler is up for a max contract, and the Sixers have already stated their intentions to offer him the five-year, $190 million. Thus creating stiff competition for front offices around the league.

Coming off of what is arguably the finest playoff performance of his career, Butler’s reputation as a consummate closer and defensive powerhouse precede him. He finished with 19.4 points per game on a playoff career-high 45 percent on field goals, another playoff career-high 5.2 assists, and 6.1 rebounds. Butler landed on a contending team in Philadelphia, and he acted accordingly.

With teams such as the newly hitched Lebron James and Anthony Davis Lakers interested, there is little doubt in the league’s confidence in his abilities. Butler played well both with the ball and off the ball for the Sixers. Though his three-point shot was spotty for stretches throughout the season, it’s one of the aspects of his game that will age well and going to a team where he is the first option seems unwise.

Butler’s history calls into question the viability of his contract once he reaches the latter half of it. Playing under Coach Tom Thibedeau and his infamous eight-man rotations for 4 years of his prime between his time in Chicago and Minnesota, Butler would sometimes see 40 minutes of action in consecutive games; a heinous weight to bare and a key contributor to his season-ending 2018 right meniscus tear. The wear and tear of his career thus far is likely to take a toll on his game on both ends of the floor. Butler is a player that is best when he’s on the move, and his one-on-one defense has already deteriorated from what it once was in Chicago.

The oncoming era of load management should only serve to lengthen Butler’s prime. However, any team with eyes for him will need to head the implicit price as well as the upfront cost.

With Embiid’s health constantly in question, the Sixers are right to go all-in on Butler, and it may be a synergistic relationship for both parties. Pairing Butler with the playmaking-prowess of point guard Ben Simmons proved to be fruitful as the two built a chemistry. Towards the end of the season, Coach Brown experimented with more pick-and-rolls, placing Jimmy at point, essentially doing whatever he can to involve Butler in the short time they spent together. The Sixers never intended Butler to be a rental, and the assets they gave up to acquire him prove that.

His clear hunger to win as well as renewed reputation as a leader and a veteran that he built in Philly make him a desirable target personality-wise, and his game speaks for itself. The Nets, Clippers, and Rockets will all be able to offer him the same money, and the fit seems just as well, but it’s all up to Jimmy Butler and Jimmy Butler come June 30.

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