When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in the recent free agency, three NBA teams emerged as the top favorites to become the new ruler of the Eastern Conference in the 2018-19 NBA season: the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and the Philadelphia 76ers. When the season officially started, the Celtics and the Raptors proved to be on a different level than the 76ers.
In just 14 regular season games, the 76ers realized that they still need a huge upgrade on their roster in order to strengthen their chance of dominating the Eastern Conference. Recently, the 76ers engaged in a blockbuster trade deal with the Timberwolves, sending Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton.
The acquisition of Jimmy Butler will undeniably boost the 76ers’ performance on both ends of the floor. In the 10 games he has played this season, the 29-year-old shooting guard is averaging 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.0 block on 47.1 percent shooting from the field, and 37.8 percent from beyond the arc. Despite the improvement made by one of their Eastern Conference rivals, Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens doesn’t seem to be concerned at all.
Per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, Stevens said that he knows what Jimmy Butler will bring to Philadelphia, but as of now, he’s focusing on addressing the issues on his team and figuring out how they can perform better on both ends of the floor.
“Philly’s a really good team. They were a really good team 2 days ago. They’re a really good team now. I think our focus needs to be on us playing our best basketball right now. He’s obviously a heck of a player but I haven’t put too much thought into it.”
The return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward made the Celtics the No. 1 contender in the Eastern Conference. However, based on their performance early this season, Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens is yet to figure out how to maximize the effectiveness of both superstars without affecting the impact of their young players like Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier. The 76ers’ acquisition of Jimmy Butler will definitely give the Celtics a huge headache, but Stevens must be aware of how strong the Celtics could be when they succeed to bring all those pieces together.
As of now, there’s still a plenty of time before the Celtics battle against the new-look 76ers on the court. The second faceoff between Boston and Philadelphia will be on Christmas day at TD Garden.