In Jimmy Butler, the Philadelphia 76ers finally have their closer

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After struggling to finish out tight games over the first month of the season, it looks like Philadelphia 76ers have found their closer in Jimmy Butler.

When the Philadelphia 76ers made a surprise trade to procure the right to Jimmy Butler, Elton Brand and company were indeed met with their fair share of skepticism regarding the move.

From questions about Butler’s fit on the court with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to questions about Butler’s fit in Brett Brown‘s locker room, it seemed like anyone’s guess just how the post-Process Sixers would look with Jimmy Buckets as their third star.

So far, so good if you as me.

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Over his albeit brief three-game tenure in South Philly, Butler is averaging a solid 19 points, 1.3 steals, and 4.3 assists a game as the Sixers’ starting small forward while knocking down 43 percent of his 2.3 3-pointer attempts each game.

Are those numbers sustainable over a full season? No, as Butler’s points per game will almost certainly go up as he becomes more acclimated with his teammates and Coach Brown’s scheme, while his 3-point shooting percentage will start to fall as he attempts more shots each game (J.J. Redick attempts 8.2 threes a game).

However, regardless of how Butler’s stat line changes over the forthcoming months as he logs more starters with the 76ers, one trait that made him so very appealing on the trade market has already been on full display for fans at the Wells Fargo Center: Jimmy Butler is a seriously talented closer.

Just like in baseball, where a player like Brad Lidge can help to vault his Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series Championship, having a player who not only survives but thrives in clutch situations is imperative to continued success, especially in close games like the 76ers’ overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets.

With literally seconds to go, Butler, facing off against the second player in NBA history to drop 60 in a game since Allen Iverson did so back for the Sixers, didn’t hesitate with the clock winding down, and took a heavily contested 3-pointer from 27 feet away.

The results? A 122-119 Philadelphia 76ers win.

Thanks to Butler’s late-game heroics, which are all the more impressive when you consider that many view him as an average-at-best outside shooter, the Sixers remain undefeated within the walls of the Wells Fargo Center and are sitting two games out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Now granted, is it a good sign that the team had to go to overtime to defeat a sub .500 team like the Hornets, helmed by a first-year head coach? Of course not, but in the NBA, a win’s a win even if said win is ugly.

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Thanks to their overtime win over Charlotte, the Philadelphia 76ers are now 11-7, and 2-1 over the last week. With Embiid in the paint and Simmons running the show, Brett Brown’s squad has been a scorer away from becoming a problem in the Eastern Conference. Three games into his tenure with the team, it’s pretty safe to say Jimmy Butler is that guy.