With Jimmy Butler, Elton Brand has Philadelphia 76ers on the move

Elton Brand | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Elton Brand | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Although on the job less than two months, Elton Brand has shown as general manager he is not afraid to make major moves for the Philadelphia 76ers.

When Elton Brand was named the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers on Sept. 20, no one outside of the inner circle was quite sure how he really  fit in the team’s power structure.

Was he a mere figurehead; a popular former player with scant front office experience, but a good guy who will present well, while coach Brett Brown really called the shots? Or was he truly in charge of the team off-the-court, as managing owner Josh Harris had described at the introductory press conference?

We got a clearer picture on Monday when it was officially announced the Sixers had pulled off a monster deal to acquire four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler.

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Now that all the I’s have been dotted and T’s crossed, how the deal actually came about is getting leaked out.

If these reports are correct, Brand was the main orchestrator of the deal.

Coincidentally, Butler demanded to be traded from Minnesota close to the day Brand was made GM, so he has dealt with this possibility almost from the beginning.

The Timberwolves, who made the playoffs last year for the first time since Kevin Garnett was there, did not want to give Butler up and all team’s inquiring were given outrageous trade demands. The Sixers were reportedly told they would have to trade Ben Simmons to get Butler. That was a quick No.

As the Timberwolves got off to a slow start, Minnesota became more ready to listen to trade offers. Also, owner Glen Taylor got involved, which helped speed things along since coach/GM Tom Thiboedeau was not thrilled with the idea of losing his top player.

Because ownership was involved on the Minnesota side, Harris had to play an active role as NBA etiquette dictates owners talk to fellow owners, not a general manager. Harris was enthusiastic about getting Butler from the start and it was Brand who counseled patience and to wait until the Timberwolves’ demands were more realistic.

After a 0-5 road trip on Nov. 9 dropped them to 4-9 on the season, Thibodeau was ready to deal as the toxic atmosphere was getting too much. His priority was to get the best deal that would help the T-Wolves right now, as he is on thin ice with Taylor and building for the future meant little, since he might not be a part of it.

This is where Brand showed some wheeling and dealing skills.

Other offers for Butler featured some combination of first-round draft picks and a pretty good player, since teams did not want to rip their rotation totally apart for one player. Brand, sensing what Thibodeau was looking for, hit him with something different: I will give you two really good players who can help you win now, but in return you don’t get a first-round pick.

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Thibodeau went for it and then it was simply a matter of balancing salaries for salary cap purposes. Sometimes it’s the little things that pay off later, and it appears Brand did a good job with that.

Minnesota agreed to take guard Jerryd Bayless and his way-overvalued $8.6 million salary. In return, the 76ers, besides Butler, are getting injury-plagued center Justin Patton.

Patton is 7-foot-1 and was known as a great outside shooting big man at Creighton. He was the 16th pick in the 2017 NBA draft by Chicago but has played just one game due to a foot injury. He is still hurt and because Minnesota declined his third-year option, will be a free agent at the end of the season.

However, if healthy, having a 7-foot-1 guy who can shoot the three is a nice thing to have. Some say Patton could be a steal and possible future contributor, as it is doubtful Amir Johnson plays meaningful minutes after this year.

Brand did not jump at the first opportunity to make a splash as general manager and waited until the price became acceptable, but not a second longer (not repeating Bryan Colangelo’s mistake of holding onto Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel for far too long).

He then outmaneuvered other teams with an offer that Minnesota would prefer. He also got rid of a bad contract and picked up a player who might contribute.

Brand made it clear from his first day on the job that he considers the 76ers roster to be incomplete for title contention, so he is looking to make more moves.

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But, so far, the ‘Old School Chevy’ is making all the right moves.