The Sixers shocked the entire NBA world on Saturday as they pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire two-way star guard Jimmy Butler and second-year center Justin Patton from the Minnesota Timberwolves. In exchange for Butler, Philly gave up starters Dario Saric and Robert Covington along with veteran guard Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick.
No one expected the Sixers, who have trusted the process for many years, to make a substantial move this early in the season. Instead, the idea was for them to possibly go after Butler or another top-tier free agent next summer.
However, Philadelphia does not have to worry about finding their star as they have him and could re-sign Butler to a lucrative max contract.
But the questions that are now on everybody’s mind is how will Sixers head coach Brett Brown fit Butler into the offense and who will be in the starting lineup?
While they are adding a legit two-way playmaker at the shooting guard spot, the Sixers are losing their starting power forward in Saric and small forward in Robert Covington. Both players were perimeter threats offensively and could guard multiple positions on defense.
On Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, we saw the Sixers, who only had nine healthy players, introduce a new starting lineup consisting of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Landry Shamet, J.J. Redick, and Markelle Fultz.
On offense, Simmons and Fultz were the starting guards in the backcourt, but Shamet and Redick were the starting forwards. However, on defense, Simmons picked up Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and Shamet had the tall task of defending Kyle Anderson.
It was not your prototypical starting lineup, but with the various circumstances facing them, the Sixers did a good job communicating on defense and spacing the floor on offense.
Nevertheless, do not expect to see this type of lineup when Butler is cleared to play, which should be sometime this upcoming week. You could see a starting lineup consisting of:
C – Joel Embiid
PF – Mike Muscala (when healthy)
SF – Jimmy Butler
SG – Markelle Fultz
PG – Ben Simmons
With this hypothetical lineup, the only huge difference is having Butler at the 3, which he can do with his height and inserting Muscala. This season, Muscala has done a solid job on both sides of the floor and compliments Joel Embiid very well.
In eight games, Muscala is averaging a modest 7.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game. But he is shooting 34.5 percent from three-point range on 3.4 attempts a game.
Furthermore, when he and Embiid are on the floor together, the net defensive rebounds per 100 possessions spike up to plus-7.7, while the offensive rebounds are plus-5.3. Also, the points go up to plus-8.2.
Muscala will not provide the same offensive firepower that Saric showed over the course of his Sixers’ career, but will give the team the desired floor space they need to function on offense.
Therefore, the only question marks will be surrounding Simmons and Fultz. We already know that Embiid is a walking double-double every time he touches the hardwood and Butler will create his own offense.
But Simmons must show that he will at least take a jump shot to give opposing defenses something else to think about. And the same thing can be said about Fultz, who needs to stay aggressive through all four quarters.
This is not a perfect lineup by any means for the Sixers, but it should get the job done for the immediate future.