Philadelphia 76ers: Jimmy Butler made the right decision

Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Jimmy Butler left the Philadelphia 76ers last summer. Good for him.

The Philadelphia 76ers let Jimmy Butler walk out the door last summer. In hindsight, it was a prescient move by Butler — and a move of immeasurable detriment to the Sixers’ present and future.

As we rehash the disappointments of Philadelphia’s 2019-20 season, it’s only natural that Butler enter the conversation. Much has been said (and reported) in recent days about Butler’s tumultuous tenure in South Philly, and the events that led to his departure.

Unsurprisingly, a front office desperate to shed blame has sought to pin Brett Brown for crimes he did not commit. And, in the process, we have gotten a clearer picture of just how dysfunctional the Sixers’ organization is, all the way from ownership down to the players and the coaching staff.

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It’s true — Brett Brown and Jimmy Butler never really got along. That much was obvious to even the most disconnected viewer last season. What we cannot do, however, is blame Brown for Butler’s departure. The onus for that decision was solely on Butler and the front office.

Here’s what Bleacher Report’s Yaron Weitzman — who wrote “Tanking to the Top,” and spent years scratching his way inside the Sixers organization — had to say about Butler’s egress.

"“Still, some in the organization recognized that allowing Butler to leave could backfire. In a meeting discussing the deal, sources say Alex Rucker, the Sixers’ executive vice president, was asked by colleagues what the team’s plan was for closing playoff games. Even Brown, who made his frustrations with Butler clear throughout the season but in the end had handed him the keys of the team’s offense, eventually made it clear he’d be OK with bringing Butler back, according to a source.”"

That is clear as day. Brown and Butler had problems — and it’s clear Brown is far from blameless in the Sixers’ overall demise — but at the end of the day, you cannot peg Butler’s departure on a coach you were barely committed to. The front office decided to let Butler walk and negated to offer him a max contract. That rests solely on the front office.

It was also reported that Philadelphia was willing to offer Butler an extension if he did not take meetings with other teams. That is, frankly, a silly and arbitrary measure of someone’s “loyalty,” and Philadelphia had no reason to expect such a gesture of confidence from Butler last summer.

You don’t refuse to offer a top-20 player a contract because he’s wants to shop around. He’s a top-20 player, and he was well within his rights to explore other options. If you’re Philadelphia, you cannot willingly shoot yourself in the foot because Butler rubbed a few people the wrong way. It’s abundantly clear Butler can be the centerpiece of a thriving locker room culture. Just look at Miami. You get over yourself and offer him the max extension he so clearly deserved.

And, speaking of Miami, it’s worth recanting all of the criticism lobbed at Butler last summer. He was chastised non-stop by fans and pundits alike, most of whom discredited his drive to win. People lambasted Butler for choosing fair weather over championship contention. Maybe — just maybe — Butler understood how messy the Sixers were, and got out while the getting was good.

Butler is now the focal point of a Heat team known for its strong culture and consistently capable front office. Pat Riley and Company have managed to keep Miami afloat in the post-LeBron years, and now Butler is at the core of a very promising destination for potential free agents. Plus, Miami is flat-out better than Philadelphia as things currently stand.

Of course, if Butler did return, this season plays out far differently. He propels the Sixers to legitimate title contention, and Al Horford never crosses the front door of the practice facility in Camden. But it’s clear Butler would listen to potential offers, and Philadelphia — in a twisted display of pride and ego — said no thanks.

Next. Sixers' Summer of Blunders. dark

And such is life! Butler is primed to haunt Philadelphia for years to come, while the Sixers must reckon with a potpourri of career-altering, championship-window-closing mistakes.