​Jimmy Butler trade makes 76ers true contender in East, according to ‘NBA 2K19’

Nearly two months after Jimmy Butler came to the Timberwolves with a trade request, the four-time All-Star is finally leaving Minnesota. The 76ers will send Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless along with a future second-round pick to the Wolves in exchange for Butler and Justin Patton.

Sporting News has already provided analysis of what to expect this season based on the “NBA 2K19” simulation engine, and with that information in hand, we can look at how the possible outcomes change with the altered 76ers roster.

Prior to the deal being made, the Raptors were heavy favorites in the Eastern Conference with essentially a 100 percent chance of taking the top seed and a 71 percent chance of representing the East in the NBA Finals. The 76ers were likely looking at the No. 4 seed with an expected win total of 45 and no real signs that they would be a threat to win the conference.

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Philadelphia’s odds have dramatically increased following the trade with Butler (90 Overall rating) helping to form the league’s third-best “Big Three” based on “NBA 2K19” ratings. Only the Warriors and Rockets have better trios than Butler, Joel Embiid (90) and Ben Simmons (87).

Butler won’t have a full regular season to make an impact, however, given that 17 percent of the Sixers’ games have already been played. Taking that into consideration after having run over 50 complete simulations, a win improvement of five games should be anticipated with a final record of 50-32.

That’s a substantial improvement from the original projection, putting the 76ers at No. 2 in the conference with at least a chance of representing the East in the NBA Finals. They were able to achieve that 15 percent of the time, and it did not appear to be a possibility prior to the trade. The Raptors remain strong favorites in the East, consistently finishing as the top seed and often reaching the Finals. 

While things are looking up for the 76ers, there are concerns about an early playoff exit. The Sixers got bounced in the first round 23 percent of the time, making it the second-most likely outcome. Shooting struggles could be the culprit — JJ Redick is the only real threat from 3-point range. 

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Despite that potential problem, Philly’s most likely fate is to fall in the Eastern Conference finals. That occurred in 38 percent of the season simulations, and in most instances, the Raptors ended the Sixers’ season. (The Bucks and Celtics also prevailed in some cases.)

The East has four teams that look capable of challenging for the conference crown. By acquiring Butler, the 76ers may have increased their chances to reach the NBA Finals. At the very least, the race at the top just got a lot more interesting.

Bryan Wiedey posts sports gaming news and analysis daily at Pastapadre.com, hosts the Press Row Podcast and can be reached on Twitter @Pastapadre.

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