Philadelphia 76ers, The Whiteboard

The Whiteboard: Like it or not, Jimmy Butler deserves an NBA All-Star nod

Jimmy Butler didn’t make many fans when he forced his way out of Minnesota, but the Philadelphia 76ers guard still deserves a place in the NBA All-Star Game.

With the NBA All-Star reserves being announced this Thursday, there is naturally a lot of talk about which players are deserving for those coveted spots. When it comes to Jimmy Butler, the analysis has been a little bit bizarre.

Most of the Butler discussion has been focused on how he “[participated] in the sabotage” of the Minnesota Timberwolves early in the year. That’s a fair opinion, but as the terrific Zach Lowe notes in that linked article, the only difference between Butler wanting out and Kyrie Irving wanting the same a year prior was that the Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t dumb enough to pretend they could salvage the situation.

Let’s put the Minnesota business behind us for a second, and just look at the basketball. Based on his season-long numbers, what he’s done with the Philadelphia 76ers and the way he’s revolutionizing the NBA headband game Jimmy Butler should be an All-Star.

Butler is the only player in the Eastern Conference to average at least 19 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals per game this season. The only other players to manage those numbers are James Harden, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook. Harden and George are All-Star starters in the West, and Butler is scoring far more efficiently than Westbrook from the field and 3-point territory.

With Butler in the lineup, Philadelphia is 19-9 this season. Philly’s win percentage of 67.9 with Butler playing would plant the Sixers as the third-best team in the East, behind Milwaukee and Toronto. Without Butler on the floor, Philly has gone 13-9 this year, for a win percentage of 59.1. That would drop the Sixers to the fifth seed, below the Celtics.

Two seeds may not seem like a lot, but that could be the difference between having home court against the Nets or having to head into Boston in the first round come playoff time. (Although, due to Victor Oladipo’s unfortunate injury, Philly’s floor might be the fourth seed now.)

Jimmy Butler is one of the best guards in the Eastern Conference this season, plain and simple. His play has been All-Star worthy. The NBA coaches have to decide if his jarring divorce from the Timberwolves ruins all of that when it comes to All-Star nomination. That would seem harsh considering Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard have all forced their way out via trade within the last two years and all three players are starting in the All-Star game.

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