Philly Front Office

Finding Jimmy Butler’s Role

We are now two weeks removed from the Woj story that seemingly broke Sixers Twitter. It claimed that Jimmy Butler challenged head coach Brett Brown about the way he was being used in games. Since that story broke, both Butler and Brown have publicly stated that it was not as big of a deal as the media made it. Brown even stated he felt no disrespect from Butler but rather that he actually welcomed it. 

Although Brown and Butler stated the story was no big deal, all eyes would now be on the Sixers. How would Brown utilize Jimmy Butler in the offense? In the following five games that Butler played, he scored 20, 23, 30, 16, & 19 points respectively. Although these are good numbers on the surface, it still seemed as if there was a struggle getting Butler the ball in the flow of the offense. Against the Wizards, while Butler scored 23 points, he only shot 38% from the field on 18 shots. The game after that, against the Hawks, Butler score 30 points on 9 of 19 shooting. However, most of his points came from forced shots or lobs from Simmons. 

Utilizing Jimmy

Most of Jimmy Butler’s points with the Sixers come from ISO plays and shots he has to force up because of the shot clock running down. Almost 80% of the Sixers’ offensive possessions, Butler is standing in the corner watching the play develop on the opposite side of him. It was not until the game against the Wolves where Butler looked really in tune with the offense. Plays were finally being called for him to either score or make a play.

It does seem as if Brown has struggled to implement Jimmy Butler into the offense with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. I decided to take a look at how head coach Brett Brown could use Jimmy Butler more on the offensive end.

Pick-and-Roll Jimmy

The very first idea which everyone would like to see implemented a lot more into the entire offense in general would be Pick-and-Roll. Previous seasons, the Sixers have not run a lot of pick-and-roll on offense. That is mostly because of previous personnel not having the ability to run it effectively. Fans even clamored for more Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid pick-and-rolls, but that notion quickly dissipated with Ben Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot the ball. Brett seemed as if he started to implement more pick-and-roll when the team got its former 1st overall draft pick Markelle Fultz back in the lineup. Having the Fultz/Embiid pick-and-roll at the top of the key where Fultz could shoot the midrange jumper seemed to be a effective for a short time, but the team got away from it because of Fultz’s inconsistency with his shooting form and inability to hit those shots. 

Now Brown has another player who thrives in pick-and-roll in Jimmy Butler. Butler will take the shots Simmons wouldn’t while also making the shots Fultz could not. His ability to shoot efficiently in the midrange while also being able to attack the rim is a valuable trait to put pressure on defenses. His ability to shoot the three off the dribble and in catch and shoot situations is something Brett should utilize to spread the floor and give Simmons and Embiid more space to operate. Using Jimmy Butler in the dribble handoff situations instead of JJ Redick the majority of the time should help the offense immensely.

Freelance Jimmy

Another way Brown could utilize Butler’s offensive skill set is to have him sort of freelance off-ball. What I mean by freelance is backdoor cuts, coming off staggered screens, posting smaller defenders, etc. Like I previously stated, Butler is usually standing in the corner opposite of the ball on the majority of the Sixers’ offensive possessions. Letting him move freely and giving him some action would make sure his defender has to keep an eye on him and stay engaged instead of being able to help off ball since Butler is stuck in the corner.

ISO Jimmy

Finally, as we all know Jimmy Butler is a good isolation player. That’s been proven by his two game-winning shots he has already hit for the 76ers. While he is a great isolation player, Butler is not on the level of a James Harden who can seemingly ISO every play and get a worthwhile shot or possession out of it. Fittingly, though, that’s not how Brett’s offense is designed. I have already mentioned that most of Butler’s shots come from isolation and forced shots because of the shot clock. However, if you have him in isolation less and involved within the entire offense more, I think that he will be much more efficient.

You can still put Butler in isolation situations because that’s one of his better traits, but it should not be the focal point every time he touches the ball on offense. If you involve Jimmy Butler into the overall offense more, where he is scoring and making plays within the team and not seemingly on an island every time he touches the ball, then defenses won’t be able to key on him, knowing he’s going to shoot the ball.

Give It Time

All in all, it will take a little time to see if Brett Brown can use Jimmy Butler to the best of his abilities in cohesion with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Also, Butler has only been a 76er for a little over two months, and it takes time for a team to gel – especially a team with now three alpha males. The Sixers are in win-now mode and are looking to resign Jimmy Butler in the offseason, so making him happy and using him to his potential that will result in wins should be the number one priority for the 76ers.

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