Butler is not available to change teams until 11th January, having been traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Sixers for Robert Covington and Dario Saric in November. Butler has already caused tension in Philadelphia and challenged Brett Brown in a team meeting as reported by Ramona Shelburne earlier this month.
Butler and Brown have both downplayed the drama, but there was a sense of inevitability about this. Life around Butler is always like a soap opera.
Bleacher Report claim that teams have contacted the Sixers about Butler’s availability, though Philadelphia have reportedly not considered trading him away.
The rumour mill will continue to rumble on until the trade deadline, and we can be sure to hear plenty more about the Sixers locker room between now and 7th February.
Here are five teams that should be giving Elton Brand a call over the next few weeks…
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are ready to make a big splash. Doc Rivers has overachieved this season, as the front office eye up a franchise-altering free agent. Their pursuit of Kawhi Leonard has been well-publicised, and they are one of the teams who will be after Kevin Durant.
Bringing in Butler and offering him the max contract in the summer would be an insurance policy of sorts. It might be a way to prove they are legitimate contenders in 2020 to Leonard or Durant, too.
With several expiring contracts, including Avery Bradley, the Clippers have the means to get a deal done.
Butler heading to Staples Center would change the shape of the West once more. The Clippers are already a difficult team to face, adding Butler’s elite defence and scoring would make them a dark horse for the conference finals.
Dallas’ rebuild has been accelerated by the superb start to Luka Doncic’s NBA career. Dennis Smith Jr. is available for trade after issues playing alongside Doncic. The Mavericks are still in contention for a playoff berth and will continue to compete all season as their draft pick belongs to Atlanta. It is top-five protected – it looks very unlikely that Dallas are bad enough to retain the pick.
The Mavericks have the money to make a deal work with Philadelphia. Whether Butler would resign is, of course, unknown, but the prospect of the former Chicago Bull joining up with Doncic is a fun one.
Dallas, like others on this list, struggle to attract big free agents. Trading for Butler is a way to circumvent that issue.
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans have to do something to try and keep Anthony Davis.
It is no secret that Davis could be on the move. He is eligible for the super max this offseason, but it is far from guaranteed he signs it. Davis wants team success and it looks ever more likely that is not possible at the Pelicans, who are 19-22 at the time of writing.
It would be a massive risk from New Orleans’ front office, but perhaps a trade for Butler (should he become available) is their best chance of keeping the face of their franchise.
This would be the most entertaining move for Butler, though it’s unlikely the Pelicans would offer enough to tempt the Sixers.
Detroit made an ultra-win-now move in acquiring Blake Griffin last season. They still failed to make the playoffs, however, and hired Dwane Casey last summer. Casey, aided by a big season from Griffin, got the Pistons off to a good start.
Things have taken a turn for the worse in Motor City, though, and they are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference. Moving for Butler would make them at least the sixth-best team in the East and end any concerns of entering the lottery again.
It’s questionable whether Detroit have enough to get a deal done. Reggie Bullock would have to be a part of it – balancing the money would be challenging with the Sixers unlikely to want Reggie Jackson’s hefty 2019/20 salary.
Charlotte are in a similar spot to Detroit in that chasing pack in the East. Kemba Walker has put the team on his back this year, but they are still a long way from competing with the big five in the conference.
Walker is a free agent this offseason and will likely be offered the max contract by Michael Jordan’s team. It’s improbable he turns that down despite Charlotte’s situation. They, like several others on this list, are not going to attract an All-NBA level free agent, so an all-out move for Butler might be their best chance of contending in the near-future.
The Hornets would have to be very inventive to get a trade done for Butler. It’s a longshot, but a risk worth taking to pair another All-Star with Walker at his peak.