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NBA Rumors: Philadelphia 76ers Felt They Had To Choose Between Jimmy Butler And Ben Simmons

Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons

Going face-to-face against Jimmy Butler in the second round, the Philadelphia 76ers are getting a brutal reminder of the team they could have been. Back in 2019, they traded Butler to Miami in a blockbuster four-team deal. According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, the organization believed they had to choose between Butler and budding young star, Ben Simmons. The two clashed both on the court and off, and Philly elected to send Butler packing after just 55 games with the team:

While Butler and Embiid bonded and have remained friends, Simmons became disenfranchised by Butler's playing and leadership style.

Both needed the ball in their hands, which pitted them against each other. Eventually it got to the point the organization felt it needed to choose between them, according to team sources, and it chose Simmons. He was younger, and at the time, seemed to have a higher ceiling. He was also still on a rookie-scale deal, and not due for a massive free-agent contract. Plenty of organizations would've done the same.

But that choice hasn't aged well, both because of how Simmons' career has unraveled in the past two years and how well Butler has played for the Heat since it invested in him with two separate eight-figure contracts, including a four-year, $184 million deal last summer.

Had the 76ers stuck with Butler, he and Embiid might have the Sixers in a better spot than they are currently sitting. With Embiid hobbled, James Harden struggling, and Butler dominating for the Heat, the Sixers are in real danger of being sent home in the second round for the second consecutive season.

The worst part of it all is that it didn't have to be this way. Had he been given the chance to lead, Butler could have changed everything for Philly. Instead, they are without Ben Simmons anyway, as they are left to picture a world where Butler leads them to glory.