The Philadelphia 76ers-Jimmy Butler dynamic, while not outright problematic, is getting somewhat uncomfortable.
Despite both Jimmy Butler and Brett Brown downplaying their reported confrontation, stories about the Philadelphia 76ers‘ situation continue to get more concerning. According to Bleacher Report, the Sixers are receiving phone calls about Butler’s availability. That’s a dramatic shift in tone.
While the Sixers are obviously rebuffing those calls, concerns about Butler’s long-term viability are legitimate. Even if the discussion between Butler and Brown wasn’t “confrontational,” Butler voicing problems with his offensive role speaks to a potentially larger issue.
Joel Embiid remains the alpha and Ben Simmons, in unique ways, needs the ball to succeed. It compromises spacing while fundamentally changing Butler’s role compared to years past, even if his usage and shot attempts are similar to Minnesota.
Rather than running pick-and-rolls — which Butler prefers — the Sixers use Butler more off the ball, making cuts to the rim, operating in dribble hand-offs, and spotting up along the three-point line.
The Sixers need to use Butler more prominently, but his new role was always going to require an adjustment. Butler remains one of the best No. 2 options in the NBA, but there seems to be a troublesome disconnect between his vision and Brown’s at the moment.
If Brown makes changes and the Sixers continue winning, there’s a decent chance the whole story blows over. Both player and coach denying the story — or the extent of the conversation, at least — is definitely a positive sign. Butler went as far as to compliment Brown’s willingness to hear different perspectives.
At this point, there’s no reason to consider offers. Butler is a top-15 player at his peak and someone who pushes the Sixers closer to title contention. With a solid bench, the Sixers might be in an entirely different discussion.
Even so, the continued reports of potential conflict between Brown and Butler are worrisome. Adrian Wojnarowski and Romona Shelburne are top-notch reporters with great ethics, meaning there’s probably fire where the smoke in gradually creeping in.
How severe is the fire — is the damage anywhere close to irreparable — is yet to be determined. As of right now, it’s not the team’s biggest concern. But in the coming weeks, if things still feel overwhelmingly awkward, it’s fair to start posing questions.