MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler is in Philadelphia, and upon his arrival he immediately began talking about winning a championship.
“The Process” has a whole new meaning.
Butler, a four-time All-Star forward, is now officially a member of the 76ers, after they and the Minnesota Timberwolves received approval from the league office Monday on the terms of the trade that was agreed to over the weekend.
“He replicates, he mirrors, the spirit of Philadelphia,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “He is a fierce competitor. And there is a toughness that he plays with. That’s who he is. And he wears it on his face, it’s seen in his game, it’s confirmed by multiple all-defensive teams and it’s a perfect fit for the city and our program defensively.”
The deal gives Philadelphia a legitimate “Big Three,” with Butler joining All-Star forward Joel Embiid and reigning rookie of the year Ben Simmons on a team that already was expected to be a major Eastern Conference contender this season. Butler flew into Philadelphia on Monday and told NBC Sports Philadelphia that fans should expect “a guy who wants to win.”
“We want a championship,” Butler said as he signed a couple of autographs before he was driven away from the airport. “And I think the core group of guys that we have will figure out a way to get it done.”
Butler and Justin Patton were traded to Philadelphia for Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless, along with a 2022 second-round draft pick.
Butler will be introduced by the 76ers on Tuesday and is expected to debut with his new club Wednesday at Orlando. Philadelphia was playing at Miami on Monday.
“We have a championship window that’s centered around the continued progression of our talented young core, as well as our ability to add elite players who elevate our program,” 76ers general manager Elton Brand said. “In Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, we have two of the NBA’s top 20 players. Now, we’ve added a third top-20 player in Jimmy Butler.”
The 76ers won 47 games in a three-season span between 2013 and 2016. They won 28 in 2016-17, made the jump to the playoffs at 52-30 last season and now will be considered an even more serious threat to emerge as the East representative in the NBA Finals.
“The biggest challenge is piecing all this together,” Brown said. “It’s not even close. … I say that completely from an excitement standpoint. This isn’t a burden. Sure, it’s a responsibility. But I’m excited with piecing this together.”
Butler has averaged 21.8 points per game since the start of the 2014-15 season, the 13th-highest clip in the NBA over that span.
There are three teams with multiple current teammates averaging at least that many points over those seasons. Golden State has three such players, with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, though Cousins hasn’t played yet this season for the Warriors while recovering from surgery.
Oklahoma City teammates Russell Westbrook and Paul George also have averaged that much — and now, Philly has such a pairing in Butler and Embiid.
“I think he’s going to bring toughness, scoring ability, a veteran,” 76ers guard Markelle Fultz said. “Just going to compete on both ends of the floor and I hope he pushes this team to a higher level.”
Butler is the obvious headliner to this trade, though there will be some adjustments for the 76ers to make now that the deal is finally done.
Saric and Covington were key players for Philadelphia, combining to make 398 starts including playoffs for the 76ers during their time with the club. Saric averaged 13.5 points with the 76ers over parts of three seasons, while Covington averaged 12.9 points during his five seasons with Philly. They were the starting forwards for the 76ers in nearly every game last season, when Philadelphia had its best record since 2000-01 — the last time that the franchise went to the NBA Finals.
“We’re excited to have these guys come in,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “With Robert and Dario, that they’ve started on a good team, they’ll help.”
The deal between the teams was struck on Saturday, though it couldn’t become official until the trade call Monday.
It ends a two-month saga during which there was no doubt that Butler was going to get traded out of Minnesota. He told the Timberwolves shortly before training camp that he wanted to be moved, which forced Minnesota’s hand because it was obvious that Butler would not re-sign next summer. So the options were to move him for something, or lose him for nothing.
“He loves to win,” Fultz said. “He’s going to do whatever it takes to win.”