The Philadelphia 76ers have made some major roster changes over the past 12 months, starting with being aggressive on the trade market last year in adding Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris.
This summer, they seemed to want to run it back with that group that was a few bounces away on a Kawhi Leonard jumper from potentially moving on to the conference finals. However, Butler decided he wanted a change of scenery and pushed for a sign-and-trade to Miami, which netted the Sixers Josh Richardson in return. They used the rest of their cap space to bring Harris back and sign Al Horford, giving them the potential of trotting out a monster lineup, but also giving them some flexibility with rotations.
Still, Butler’s absence from the team is noticeable, even if Richardson is a highly underrated commodity at the two-guard spot. Beyond what Butler brought on the floor, he and Joel Embiid had formed a strong bond over their season together that was quite evident in the playoffs. Butler is in Miami now, but as Embiid told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, they remain close. He also explained why he was especially sad to see Butler go from a personal and professional standpoint.
Here's a sneak peek of my convo with Joel Embiid, who says he wishes Jimmy Butler was still a Sixer, and how his own responsibilities in the clutch have shifted with Jimmy gone. Plus @ScottiePippen & @NickFriedell chime in on who Philly's late-game offense should run through now. pic.twitter.com/HvXlmIguMV
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) October 3, 2019
Embiid goes on to discuss how one of the challenges for this Philadelphia team will be figuring out who to go to in crunch time on the perimeter, as there will be times the defense won’t allow the All-Star big man to get it in his spots. With Butler, they knew who that guy was, but that will be among the things this new unit will have to figure out together as the season goes along.
The good news in Philly is that they have a tremendously talented roster and figure to be one of, if not the, best defensive teams in the NBA this season. That will bode well for them in the regular season and with their playoff aspirations, but at some point it’s going to come down to who can get a bucket for Philadelphia in a critical game. Embiid says he’s ready to take on that role, but they will need someone else on the perimeter to hit a shot at some point, and without Butler, the answer of who that is remains a bit up in the air.