Pros and cons of Sixers trading for, reuniting with Heat star Jimmy Butler

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The Philadelphia 76ers are expected to be one of the more active teams in the offseason market. They have a great deal of cap space and draft assets that can be moved.

The cap space doesn’t have to be used in free agency. Philadelphia can use it to be active in the trade market as well. One name that has popped up is a familiar one to Sixers fans: Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler.

Butler played for the Sixers in the 2018-19 season before leaving to join the Heat. He has since guided Miami to at least the Eastern Conference finals in three of his five seasons there and two finals appearances. Philadelphia President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey would like to bring in a wing who can play in the playoffs. Butler certainly fits that mold.

Here are the pros and cons of the Sixers reuniting with Butler:

Pro: Butler’s playoff performances

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Butler has an obvious tendency to rise to the biggest challenges on the biggest stages. His playoff runs have been very impressive.

  • 2020 (lost in the finals): 22.2 ppg, 6.5 RPG, 6.0 apg, 2.0 spg, 48.8% FG, 34.9% 3-FG
  • 2022 (lost in Game 7 of the ECF): 27.4 ppg, 7.4 RPG, 4.6 apg, 2.1 spg, 50.6% FG, 33.8% 3-FG
  • 2023 (lost in the finals as an 8 seed): 26.9 ppg, 6.5 RPG, 5.9 apg, 1.8 spg, 46.8% FG, 35.9% 3-FG

Those numbers are much higher than his regular-season output in those respective seasons, and his field goal attempts go up. He would be a perfect piece next to Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

Pro: Butler’s friendship with Embiid

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Ever since Butler’s departure in the 2019 offseason, Embiid has been very vocal about not having him in the fold. The big fella expressed confusion over how Philadelphia let Butler go after the Heat ousted the Sixers in the 2022 playoffs. Chemistry matters in the NBA. Embiid and Maxey already have their own chemistry going, but adding a guy like Butler who is a maniacal competitor should do wonders for Philadelphia.

Con: Injury and age concerns

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While Butler has been an incredible performer in the playoffs, he has missed quite a lot of games in the past. In his five seasons in Miami, he has played:

  • 58 games in 2019-20
  • 52 games in 2020-21
  • 57 games in 2021-22
  • 64 games in 2022-23
  • 60 games in 2023-24

He was hobbled and battled through an injury toward the end of the 2023 playoffs that affected his play in the finals loss to the Denver Nuggets. He also was unable to play in the 2024 playoffs due to an MCL sprain he suffered in the play-in tournament loss to the Sixers. He will be 35 before the season begins and will make $48 million in 2024-25 while looking for more money in an extension. One has to wonder if Morey and Co. will take a swing on him at this stage of his career.

Con, but also could be a pro: Butler’s regular season performances

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As mentioned above, Butler’s playoff runs have been legendary, but his regular-season performances have not been great. He has missed time and his aggressiveness is not nearly as high as it is during the postseason. The Heat finished as the No. 8 seed in both 2023 and 2024 and one has to wonder if they would have finished higher if Butler just took it up a notch a bit in November, December or January for example.

On the flip side, it could be a pro in Philadelphia. The Sixers have enough talent with Embiid and Maxey to win enough games during the regular season to finish as a higher seed while Butler can coast and get ready for the playoffs. It isn’t exactly a message one would like to promote in terms of taking the regular season seriously, but if Philadelphia were to go on a deep playoff run because of it, who can really argue it?

What would a potential Butler trade look like?

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The Sixers have assets to move such as draft picks, but that isn’t what the Heat would take. Miami is also chasing a title. One has to assume Pat Riley and Co. will need a third team involved –perhaps the Cleveland Cavaliers with Donovan Mitchell — to provide them the championship piece they want. Philadelphia would flip the draft picks to the Cavs with Butler going to the Sixers and Mitchell going to Miami. Of course, more pieces would be added to make it work, but that would be the main framework of a potential deal.