The Sixers may have made a mistake by trading for Jimmy Butler. And no, I’m not just talking about his recent “aggressive challenge” of Head Coach Brett Brown. The problem is bigger than that. He’s on a different timeline than the Sixers’ young core.
The Sixers are a young team, and despite their 52-30 record last season, they weren’t at all close to winning an NBA title. What they needed was time, their budding stars, Joel Embiid (24) and Ben Simmons (22), have been excellent to start their careers, but they still have a lot to learn.
Joel Embiid needs to steady his game and work on conditioning, and we all know Ben Simmons needs a jump shot. But the fact is — they aren’t there yet, and by bringing in Butler they’ve shortened their championship window and are rushing the development of their young stars.
Jimmy Butler is 29 years old, and while still a Top-15 player, he lacks the explosiveness he had earlier in his career. His prime could be ending in the next few years, around the same time Simmons and Embiid will be entering their own primes.
Butler is on a different career timeline than Embiid and Simmons, he wants to win now while he’s still a great player, and that is putting pressure on the Sixers’ young duo.
Being good is one thing, being championship good is an entirely different thing. LeBron didn’t win a title until his 9th season, and Jordan his 7th. Simmons is in his 2nd year and Joel is in his 3rd. Butler is in his 10th. Simmons and Embiid are great players, but being championship good takes a level of experience that they can’t possibly have.
Everyone in the organization knows that Butler will eventually decline as a player. If they sign him to a 5-year $190 million max contract this summer, they are essentially betting that they can win a title in the next three years, before Butler leaves his prime. This tightens their championship window and puts immense pressure on the two youngest members of their big three.
The pressure is mostly on Ben Simmons, there’s already been irrational talk from fans about trading him. His lack of shooting limits the team in many ways, and the frustration is becoming apparent.
When Joel Embiid complained about his new role as a spot-up shooter, he wasn’t talking about Butler. Simmons’ lack of shooting is what limits Joel’s role. Joel is more ready to win now than Simmons, and everyone is looking at Simmons as the problem.
But Simmons has hall of fame potential, he just needs more time to develop, by acquiring Butler the Sixers are stunting Ben’s development while simultaneously increasing the pressure on his shoulders. Not a great recipe for growing a young point guard.
Not only does Butler not fit with the timeline, but the Sixers are on a path to be paying max money to three players at the same time. The Sixers already have serious depth issues, which will not be resolved by having three max contracts under the cap.
The Sixers acquired an expensive player who’s prime does not match up with their best players. By doing this they put unnecessary pressure on their young core to grow quicker than it needed to, that pressure will lead to frustration within the team that could be detrimental to its future.