Masin-Moyer: With Butler, Sixers have completed “The Process”
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Tuesday, November 13, 2018
On my 16th birthday, I got the best present I never knew I wanted. On that day, the Philadelphia 76ers traded Jrue Holiday and a second-round pick for the rights to Nerlens Noel on the night of the NBA draft, also picking up Michael Carter-Williams that night.
It was the beginning of “The Process” — former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie’s plan to be just objectively awful, maybe even the worst team in basketball, in order to acquire draft picks and young talent to slowly but surely make the team a competitor instead of being mired in mediocrity as it had been for the past few seasons.
And it worked at first — being absolutely terrible, that is. The Sixers had the worst record in basketball for multiple years running as the team slowly built up talent, drafting Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz.
Slowly but surely, and despite all the memes, the team got better, culminating in the Sixers finishing third in the Eastern Conference last season, ultimately falling to the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals.
But the team seemed to be lacking a spark, a player that could put them over the top and into the NBA Finals. Embiid and Simmons were stars, but too young to take control and lead the team.
On Saturday, the Sixers finally got the final piece in the puzzle. They completed “The Process.”
After falling short in the LeBron-sweepstakes this summer, the Sixers’ quest for a final star seemed to have ended. But news broke early Saturday that Dario Saric had joined Noel and Okafor and martyrs of “The Process,” being dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a future second-round draft pick for All-Star small forward/shooting guard Jimmy Butler.
Butler is coming off a prolonged standoff with Timberwolves management, repeatedly requesting a trade of the team and taking his anger out on the first team by joining the third team during practice and subsequently beating the starters in the process, a few expletives tossed along the way.
The deal appears to be a win-win for the two teams. The Timberwolves rid themselves of a player who no longer wanted to be on the team, and the Sixers pick up the bonafide star they needed to make the next leap.
Butler brings an improved defensive presence, ability to drive and, perhaps most importantly, experience taking over in clutch situations to the Sixers.
But while it appears to be a winning deal on the surface, there is the potential for the deal to fall flat. Butler’s ego might not fit well in the locker room, clashing with the already strong personality of Joel Embiid. And, perhaps more importantly, Butler’s ability to take over games might clash with Embiid’s growing dominance in the post.
If the Sixers can navigate these issues, they look poised to claim their spot amongst the NBA’s elite and finally fulfill Hinkie’s vision. After a lot of long years, “The Process” may finally pay off in a big way.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.