Embiid Playing the What If Game on Bulter

Updated: September 30, 2021

After Simmons failed to show up for Media Day, Embiid has started venting out grievances he has been holding since 2019. Of course, as we know, not only in our takes but in life, foresight is 20/20. Embiid has been reported saying he wished they’d kept Jimmy Butler instead of appeasing Ben Simmons…but we all know what he meant. Philly had gone big talent hunting on the trade block back in their 2018/19 season sending away depth for two surprising mid-season additions in Butler from Minnesota and Tobias Harris from the Clippers. Both Butler and Tobias were All-Star caliber talents despite them being bargain deals from their previous contracts but both would be up for max-level money in the offseason. The moves proved to successful as they were a shot away from the Finals but 19 foot prayer from future Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard stuck a dagger through the heart of the city of brotherly love and ended an era that lasted (according to Embiid) shorter than it should’ve.

It was a top-heavy squad even before the max contracts came since their depth had been sent out to Minnesota and LA for the pair of wings, but the combination of Simmons, Butler, Tobias, and Embiid, had everyone in the Eastern Conference concerned with how to take on this newly formed 4-head monster. Now after the fact history is being mapped out with what if’s…put into motion by the 7 foot 1 monster out in Philly after heading into media day all on his own, Embiid is openly asking, what if we maxed Butler and moved off Simmons?

For full disclosure at the time I was in the camp of selling on Joel but that’s for another space to explore. And as the opening sentence stated, foresight is always 20/20. With Simmon’s potential projected as a top 10 player in the forseeable future, still on his rookie deal, Ben maybe have been one of the most valued trade chips in the whole NBA. Probably could create a whole series of articles of where he could’ve been traded and the dominos that may have caused, but instead he was max-out and Butler was given away in the offseason to Miami for a pick and Josh Richardson and the rest is history. Everywhere Jimmy’s gone he’s maximized his opportunities. As a center, Joel Embiid can dominate the first 3 quarters, but as we have seen from most big men, in crunch time of a playoff game, those minutes success or failure tend to be dictated on the primary scoring’s options from wings and guards.

If to only count the first 3 quarters of production, Jimmy Butler tends to look pedestrian, over paid, overvalued. He’s a “two-way player,” which tends to be a designation for a good not great player who leaves his team thirsty for an increase in offensive production. Ben Simmons for the first 3 quarters of a game nearly averages a triple double and stuffs all the slots of the spreadsheet hence his perennial All-star appearances these last few years. But come 4th quarters it’s all a different story. Butler is big shot maker and ain’t afraid the moment. It appears like he is confident enough in himself to exert the majority of energy as a facilitator and defensive presence for the first 3 quarters of a game and then when his team needs a scorer to top the scales he comes in as a killer. And as we have stated too many times the last few months, in the 4th Ben Simmons vanishes to the point where Doc Rivers has at times seen him as unplayable in crunch minutes especially when trailing late.

In a way, 2 years removed, it’s hardly far to play in imaginary space of what could’ve been if they would’ve traded Simmons for a stack of picks and a ton of above role players, or even better, attaching Simmons to the sign trade of Tobias getting another star, but it isn’t like the idea of trading Ben Simmons wasn’t already something explored. Whole pods had already been spent on trading one of the two young front court stars and instead Philly decided to send away their 4th quarter scorer for the future…a future that never came. The hardest pill to swallow is the Bubble playoffs and Butler showing flashes as a top 10 talent, something nobody including Embiid could’ve seen while he was still in Philly…but nonetheless, we can do this with every team and nearly every year…it’s why asking what could’ve been is a painful process years removed…especially as Embiid feels the cold rollin’ in Philly and his max-paid-partner is chilling in LA demanding a trade.


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