May 18, 2019
The only thing worst for Sixers fans than losing Jimmy Butler — a hard-playing, hard-talking Philly-style superstar who endeared himself to fans during his short tenure with the team — would be losing him to a division rival.
After the Sixers more or less dominated the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Nets are star hunting and appear to have singled out Butler as their "Plan B" when free agency begins in July. Their Plan A, of course, is Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Whose isn't?
New York Post sportswriter Brian Lewis broke down the Nets' likely pursuit of Butler in a story he recently published. He cited Pelicans GM David Griffin as saying Brooklyn was a perfect free agent destination for guys like Irvin and Butler.
When Butler’s situation in Minnesota went sideways, the Nets were reportedly one of three teams he wanted to be traded to. Even after he was dealt to Philadelphia — and with both 76ers owner Joshua Harris and GM Elton Brand saying they’d like to hold onto Butler — the 29-year-old forward is believed to still look favorably on the Nets.
With veterans Ed Davis, DeMarre Carroll and Jared Dudley all free agents, the Nets could use Butler’s experience and big-game persona. Caesars tabbed Brooklyn as the second choice to sign him, after Philadelphia.
Would the 76ers give Butler a max deal considering his age, the tread on his tires, his temperament and their desire to re-sign Tobias Harris? If they don’t (maybe even if they do) the Nets’ young core and surprising sixth-place finish in the East have impressed Butler and others. [NY Post]
The Nets were kind of a surprise "contender" last season, as their low key analytics approach paid off using players who were under the radar. Butler certainly isn't under the radar but he clearly wants to be in a big market next season. New York is as big as it gets.
With the Sixers, the 6-foot-8 forward (and sometimes point guard) averaged 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and four assists in 55 regular season games. In 12 postseason games it was 19.1, 6.1 boards and 5.2 assists.
Oddsmakers believe Butler will sign with Philly, but as mentioned above the Nets are the number 2 expectation. The Marquette product technically has a $19m player option on his contract, but he can make a lot more money by rejecting it and either signing a max deal with the Sixers (who can offer him the most money of any team and an extra year) or another team when the league year begins in a few months.
The Sixers and Nets, as two Atlantic Division squads, will play four times next year. You can bet if Brooklyn snatches Butler away, they'll be games filled with pretty hearty boos.
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