In two blockbuster trades, one for Jimmy Butler and the other for Tobias Harris the 76ers went all in. They traded away a lot to get a loaded starting five.
The Sixers didn’t have strong leadership after their GM Bryan Colangelo pulled a KD and had fake twitter accounts to defend himself online. In the end, they went with Elton Brand, and he got right on to work.
If you don’t remember, as it was all the way back at the beginning of the season, Butler asked for a trade that his coach/GM Thibodeau didn’t take seriously, so he caused a media frenzy, stormed a team workout and then created the first big drama of this season. The brand decided Butler was the best player the Sixers could get and pulled the trigger. An awkward fit with Embiid and a risky lockerroom presence about to turn 30 and ask for a max contract.
So when the Sixers cashed in the rest of their Hinkie war chest, it was not only a fantastic addition to the starting five but also a safety blanket for Butler. At the time Embiid and Butler proved to be an awkward fit, and the Sixers were still not considered the favorites next to Boston, Toronto and Milwaukee. The Harris trade got them one of the strongest starting fives in the league, especially crucial for the playoffs when rotations get shorter.
As the regular season came to its end, the overall consensus was the Sixers should prioritize keeping Harris over Butler. A better system fit, younger and not so volatile on and off the court, all the arguments were on his side.
Then we got to the playoffs. Against the Raptors Butler is at 22.7 pts (54% fg), 8.5 rbd, 5.7 ast, while Harris is putting up 13 pts ( 34% fg), 10 rbd, 4.7 rbd. Even more so, just a review of the highlights will show that Butler is the one taking the clutch shots, the ones that earn you max dollars.
With Embiid and Simmons, the Sixers already have a team that can get to the playoffs in the East. The third guy they need has to come up big in the playoffs and so fat that has been Jimmy Butler.
This poses a fascinating question that will reveal what do the Sixers value more, stability or peak playoff performance. Elton Brand did say that ownership authorizes him to max out both players (and skyrocket their cap), but unless they contend in the NBA Finals, it is more likely they will only sign one of the players.