Does a Butler-Philly Reunion Make Sense for 76ers?

Does a Butler-Philly Reunion Make Sense for 76ers? Apr 17, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) hugs Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) on the court after a 76ers victory in a play-in game of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the teams monitoring Jimmy Butler’s contract situation with the Miami Heat. They are reportedly interested in adding a third star to the roster this offseason. Butler, a six-time All-Star, would undoubtedly fill that role. However, does it make sense for the Sixers to reunite with the 34-year-old forward?

Butler spent part of the 2018-19 season with the Sixers before signing with the Heat in the 2019 offseason. He then went on to lead Miami to five consecutive playoff berths, including a pair of NBA Finals appearances. Despite being 34 years old, his game is showing little signs of slowing down. Butler has averaged at least 20 points per game in each of the past four seasons. He also remains a good defender and is coming off a year in which he shot a career-high 41.4% from 3-point range.

The Sixers have an established star duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. The first round series loss against the New York Knicks made clear the team needs a better third option than the likes of Tobias Harris or Kelly Oubre Jr. Butler would be a major upgrade at that spot in the lineup. There is concern his age will catch up to him. However, having to carry less of the load in Philadelphia could potentially help extend the prime of his career.

Butler also possesses a playoff pedigree. He averaged 27.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.9 steals per contest in 39 combined games between the 2022-23 and 2023-24 postseasons. The Sixers would greatly benefit from adding another proven playoff performer to the roster.

While Butler would be a good on-court fit in Philadelphia, there are also some major concerns with acquiring him. At 34 years old, his best days could be behind him. Also, injuries have limited him to an average of 58 games played over the last five seasons. He has not played in more than 65 games since the 2016-17 season.

The bigger issue with acquiring Butler is both the salary cap ramifications and the assets Philadelphia would have to give up to trade for him. Butler is currently under contract next season for $48.8 million. He also has a player option worth $52.4 million for the 2025-26 season. Multiple reports indicate Butler is seeking a two-year maximum contract extension worth $113 million. Any team acquiring him would presumably be willing to give him the two-year max extension. In that case, Butler’s total contract would be four years worth $214.2 million.

Giving the 34-year-old Butler that much money at this stage of his career is a huge gamble. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on May 28 the Sixers “are prepared to give Butler a maximum-salary extension if things align and he forces a trade out of Miami.” Giving Butler a max extension would lock the Sixers into an Embiid-Maxey-Butler core for the foreseeable future. They would have very little flexibility and resources to adequately fill out the remainder of the roster.

In addition to the big money involved, the Sixers would also have to dip into their tradable assets in any potential Butler acquisition. Heat president Pat Riley back on May 6 said Miami would not consider trading Butler this offseason. However, things could change if they fail to sign Butler to his desired contract extension. If Miami does end up trading Butler, they will surely receive a sizable trade package in return. For Philadelphia, that would mean having to give up most, if not all, of their draft capital.

Trading for Butler would not be the best path for the Sixers to take this offseason. The major monetary commitment and hefty price to acquire him in a trade should dissuade the Sixers from acquiring Butler. The Sixers would be far better off making a big move via free agency, perhaps via signing Paul George, rather than through a trade. That path would leave their draft capital untouched and available for any future trades to round out the roster. As tempting as it would be to reunite Butler in Philadelphia, there is far too much risk involved with acquiring him at this point in his career.

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