• Kyle Russell

Jimmy Butler Will Change the Miami Heat

CBS Sports

Miami shocked the NBA world this summer by landing Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. Bringing aboard Butler is a massive, franchise-altering move for a Heat team that has been stuck on the mediocrity treadmill the last few years.

Butler figures to change things for the Heat both on and off the court. Here’s how:

Off the Court

For sixteen years - minus brief stints in Chicago and Cleveland- Dwyane Wade was the face of Miami Heat basketball. With Wade’s retirement tour concluding last April, the Heat ventured into uncharted, faceless waters.

Miami has some promising players, like Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and Dion Waiters, but none qualify as a franchise cornerstone. Fortunately, Jimmy Butler is exactly that kind of player, with four All-Star appearances and two All-NBA selections. Butler gives fans and the national media a reason to tune in and watch Heat games. Perhaps more importantly, Butler may help catch the attention of an even more important audience.

In the current age of player empowerment, it’s easier to land a superstar if you already have one. With Butler on the team, Miami instantly becomes a more attractive destination for star players entering free agency or looking to force a trade (looking at you Bradley Beal). With some big expiring contracts, a shrewd negotiator in team president Pat Riley, and now Jimmy Butler, the Heat have the chips to build a serious title contender.

Until that happens, Miami will focus on internal development. Butler’s effort and determination are legendary in the NBA, and has a long career of hard work and a commitment to improvement. Jimmy Buckets has long been known as a hard-nosed leader that expects the same of his teammates.

While this leadership style may have rubbed young players from the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves wrong in the past, the Heat already have a culture built around accountability. Even this week as training camp began and Jimmy Butler started his workouts at 3:30am, several players like Bam Adebayo and Meyers Leonard rose to the challenge to join him. With Butler setting the example and the team following, the Heat will live up to their goal of being the best-conditioned, hardest working team in the league.

On the Court

Team culture and free agency positioning are important, but really what fans care about most is how Butler will change things for the Heat on the court.

First and foremost, a superstar like Butler is someone that can have a system built around him. The Miami Heat of the past few years has boasted great depth - perhaps too much depth - but no player with high-end talent to build around. To use astronomy terms, the Heat had a bunch of really nice planets but no star to revolve around. With a star in Butler in hand, the role players can now fit in around him and build a sweet new solar system.

As the new focal point, Butler probably won’t change the Heat’s current system as much as he will amplify what was already there. Miami was defense first last season, relying on a versatile offense that used dribble-handoffs, drive-and-kicks, and pick-and-rolls on the other side of the ball.

Butler made his name in the Association as an elite perimeter defender, being selected four times for the All-Defensive Team. He’s not an elite scorer, but will probably still average north of 20 points per game this season.

Perhaps the biggest, and most anticipated, difference with Butler at the helm will be when the games come down to clutch time. Miami’s biggest need over the last few seasons has been a go-to scorer to give the ball to in these moments. Josh Richardson valiantly tried last season but was unable to consistently execute. Butler is known throughout the league for being a clutch player, unafraid of the moment and with the scoring versatility to get a bucket. When clutch time comes next season, Miami will put the ball in Butler’s and let him work.

Butler and Miami are a perfect match. Butler gets to be the leader and face of a franchise that values winning and hard work above all else. Pat Riley and the Heat finally get a superstar player they can build around and carry them through clutch moments. Butler’s playstyle and mentality fit exactly what the Heat want to do, with the potential he helps recruit another superstar to turn the Heat into a serious contender.

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