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I must admit, when all of the drama surrounding Jimmy Butler first took place back in beginning of the year, I didn’t like him. In fact, I thought he was acting bigger than he is. Demanding a trade is something that the likes of Kobe Bryant has done, and while most fans don’t like that kind of behavior, he had the cache to do it.
As for Butler, now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, he’s never won an MVP and has never been to an NBA Finals. So I admit, I really didn’t like him.
That has changed, and I was wrong. Butler is special. The rest of the NBA and it’s fans should take note, because there aren’t many players left like him. In fact, demanding a trade was actually something that makes him special. I just didn’t realize it.
Sure, in the end it’s probably all about the money, and who knows if the Minnesota Timberwolves would have given him the max contract he will command? But at the same time, it was also about the drive to win. There had been rumblings that he did not like playing with Andrew Wiggins and the rest of the young core on the Timberwolves. The reason being, they don’t have the drive to win that he has. What is Wiggins’ biggest knock? That killer mentality Bryant and Butler both have. Remember, Wiggins was the No. 1 pick in the draft. Everything was handed to him on a silver platter, while Butler was the last pick of the first round and averaged less than three points a game in his rookie season.
He’s had to earn everything.
In fact, his drive can go a lot deeper than being the final pick of the first round and not playing much as a rookie. The guy famously grew up homeless.
He’s had to earn everything.
After getting his trade demand met, the future is still bleak. No one knows what will happen come summertime, but one thing is for certain — the 76ers are the perfect team for Butler. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid needed him. Those two might be the best young tandem of the last decade, but neither of their games is totally ideal for the modern era of basketball. Simmons has yet to make a 3-pointer in his second season in the NBA and Embiid is definitely a modern-day big, but he still doesn’t fit the mold of what it takes to win in today’s NBA.
That’s where Butler comes in.
Combine what Embiid and Simmons bring to the table and then sprinkle in Butler… that’s a winning formula. Look at the close games the 76ers play. Butler is the one closing them out. No, he will not put up the most points for this team, but that isn’t his job. His job is to instill that drive to win when the time matters most.
If he can be comfortable in this unique role, then this team will make the NBA Finals this season. Usually, the player who closes out a game like Bryant did for the Lakers puts up the biggest numbers. However, for Butler, he is the go-to guy in the clutch, but just simply will never put up the biggest numbers with a transcendent player like Embiid on the floor.
The thing that will make Butler an all-time great player won’t be his numbers. That will be championships. He’s already made four All-Star Games and four All-Defensive teams. We know what he is as an individual.
I believe the 76ers will make the NBA Finals. They will win the Eastern Conference, because of adding Butler, alone. Tobias Harris for sure helps, too, but Butler is what makes them different. Who can match up with Kawhi Leonard, lock down Kyrie Irving and make plays in the clutch?