MEMPHIS – The 76ers got their third star.
The team will acquire All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.
"It's a sad side to it, but also a business side," Sixers star Ben Simmons said of losing teammates. "Whatever the team decides … whatever they want to add, we are open to Jimmy. I can't wait for him to get here. I'm excited to play with him."
Simmons said he was informed Saturday morning that the Sixers were going to make the trade.
He spoke to Butler later in the day. The eighth-year veteran told the Sixers point guard he "just wants to win."
"I think that's the mind-set that we all have here," Simmons said. "So I'm excited to get Jimmy in here."
The teams will likely execute the trade on Monday. Teams usually have 48 hours to give physicals after the trade call. Trades are normally finalized after the players pass their exams.
As a result, don't expect any of the involved players to participate in games until then.
After Saturday night's game against the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Sixers will visit the Miami Heat on Monday. So the earliest Butler is expected to play for the Sixers is Wednesday night at the Orlando Magic.
Butler can opt out of the final year — 2019-20 — of his contract next summer to become a free agent. He and the Sixers expect to reach a deal on a long-term contract then, according to ESPN.
That makes sense, because the Sixers will have his Bird rights once the trade goes through.
The Sixers can offer him a five-year, $190 million max contract next summer. Teams that don't have his rights would be able to offer Butler only a four-year, $141 million max contract in free agency.
Trading for Butler was the best option for a Sixers team determined to settle for nothing less than an A-list talent to play alongside its two young stars, Simmons and Joel Embiid.
That's because the Sixers failed in their "star hunting" effort last summer despite being among a small number of teams with available cap space at the time for max deals. This summer, they'll be one of 13 that will be able to offer max salaries. Two other teams — the Magic and Phoenix Suns — should be at least close to max-level money to tender offers.
Philly hoped that free agents would be eager to join forces with Simmons and Embiid. However, most A-list free agents are expected to re-sign with their own teams, strongly consider joining LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers, or go somewhere where they will be an alpha dog. They will be hard-pressed to do that with the Sixers, who are without question Embiid's team.
But now, they'll get a four-time All-Star and four-time all-defensive second-team selection, who will immediately make the Sixers a more competitive team. The 29-year-old was fourth in the league in steals heading into Saturday night's action at 2.4 per game while averaging 21.3 points.
Simmons is impressed by Butler's hustle.
"Hearing things of late, the way he has been practicing and things like that," Simmons said. "Obviously played against him once in Minnesota and in Philly, he just has a winning attitude and an aggressive side to him. I think he's going to fit in well here."
Simmons said he, Embiid, and Butler all have that aggressive mind-set. "We hate losing," he said.
The 2018 rookie of the year is not concerned that Butler had chemistry problems with young players on the Timberwolves and the Chicago Bulls. Simmons said Butler is going to be fine in Philadelphia.
Butler can also become ball-dominant.
"That's not going to affect my game," Simmons said. "I know how to play with him and me on the floor. At the same time, I know what I'm good at. I know what I can do on the floor. With him coming in, it helps us. It adds another scorer on the floor."
Patton was the 16th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, selected by the Bulls. The 6-foot-11 center was traded that day along with Butler to the Timberwolves. He spent most of the season with the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota's G-League affiliate. The 21-year-old made one appearance (four minutes) with the Timberwolves as a rookie.
Patton, who is out with a broken bone in his right foot, has been plagued by injuries during his career. The Timberwolves didn't pick up his third-year option, meaning he'll become a free agent in July.
Covington and Saric started alongside Embiid in the Sixers' frontcourt, while Bayless was a reserve combo guard.
Saric was drafted by the Magic with the 12th overall pick in 2014 and immediately traded to the Sixers. The power forward spent two seasons playing for Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball League before joining the Sixers for the 2016-17 season. The Croatian finished that season as the NBA rookie of the year runner-up.
The Sixers acquired Covington a few weeks after he was waived by the Houston Rockets in October 2014. The undrafted small forward developed into an all-defensive first-team selection last season.
Bayless signed a three-year deal with the Sixers in 2016. He was projected to be the starting point guard but was limited to just three games during the 2016-17 season because of a wrist injury. He gradually saw his playing time decrease last season. Bayless has been sidelined this season with a left knee strain.