Jimmy Butler is nothing short of a polarizing figure. He is one of the top players in the league on both ends of the floor. But it’s no secret that he can be confrontational and divisive in the locker room. Who can forget the story where he and bench players beat the rest of the Wolves starters in a scrimmage?
Butler’s relationship with the Timberwolves soured enough for him to force his way out, eventually landing in Philadelphia. Does he have any similar ill-will towards the 76ers to push him toward pursuing other destinations?
The 76ers were a few lucky bounces away from making the Eastern Conference finals. As it stands, it seems likely that either Butler re-signs with Philadelphia or Houston tries to sign and trade for him.
Even with all the volatility, Jimmy Butler is worth the risk. For the Lakers, who would have to get a meeting with the wing and entice him on a partnership with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Butler may be the second best option behind Kawhi Leonard. His ability to produce on the offensive and defensive end are unrivaled in a free agent class lacking on the defensive side, at least among the stars likely to change teams.
Butler played 10 games with Minnesota before getting traded for Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and draft pick compensation. During his time with the 76ers, Butler averaged 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and four assists per game.
In the playoffs, Butler upped his game, averaging 19 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 47% from the field. He did struggle with his 3-point shooting, hitting only 26.7% of his attempts during those 12 games (down from 35% on the season).
One of the most enticing things to me is that Jimmy knows what it’s like to work within the team construct. He played with a ball-dominant player on the perimeter. He worked with a big that needs a lot of touches. Despite some struggles, they were four bounces of the basketball on a rim away from making the Eastern Conference Finals with a path to the NBA Finals.
A team that has the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis needs players that can operate in the backcourt and on the wings. From what we’ve seen in Philly, Butler is more than capable of working on a team built in the same manner as the Lakers.
On a Laker team that severely needs defense, Butler can provide just that. During the playoffs, the 76ers allowed only 101.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court.
Three big stars on the roster will mean conflicts of interest. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Jimmy Butler will butt heads as they adjust to playing together. But, it is a risk the Lakers should take. Butler is the type of player that can mesh in a super team without being prone to getting lost and losing his place in the hierarchy.
The regular season may feature a lot of load management and minute restrictions for the Lakers’ stars. In the playoffs, though, a healthy LeBron James, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis trio would be impossible to beat.