One of the wildest offseasons in recent memory saw approximately 40% of NBA players swap their old jersey for some new threads. A summer headlined by Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving’s free agency decisions left the NBA’s best clutch shot maker’s decision in the shadows. As Jimmy Butler signed with the Miami Heat on a four-year deal this summer, he had only a single thought on his mind.
His own team.
In Minnesota, he had to cede equal touches to Karl-Anthony Towns. He also dealt with handing the ball off to Andrew Wiggins, the league’s most notorious bricklayer.
In Philly, Brett Brown attempted to give equal shots to his newly constructed Big Four, but Butler wanted to be a bigger focus of the offense. Coach Brown’s reliance on a Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid pick and roll detracted from this. Butler never reconnected with the fantastic rhythm he showed in Chicago. This resulted in not only a drop in his field-goal attempts (from 15.7 FGA to 13.6.) but, the familiar story of Butleresque locker-room drama.
In the midst of his partially diminished workload among All-Star teammates, he still managed to average 21.2 PPG in his previous three seasons. Additionally, he did this while sharing the court with a combined five borderline 20 PPG scorers during that stretch.
During his season as a member of the 76ers, amidst the locker-room commotion involving Brett Brown, Butler was certain he would always get the ball when the game was on the line. He capitalized on those opportunities as soon as he arrived in Philly. He sank a right wing 3-pointer to seal a November victory against the Charlotte Hornets. Then the following week he hit a buzzer-beater from the same spot to beat the Brooklyn Nets. If he does the same in Miami then we could be looking at a revamped narrative for Butler’s career; one which witnesses the switch from locker room menace to underdog leader.
As the former Marquette star takes on his new role in Miami, he is set for his most dominant season to date. Perhaps the clutchest player in the NBA (who also may have the game’s largest ego) Butler will not have to surrender as many touches. This means his late-game heroics could happen more frequently.
Now, for the first time since his last year in Chicago, one of the best mid-range shooters in the game will be forced to shine without any All-Star help. The opportunity for Butler to positively alter his career trajectory is here.
This may be exactly what he has desired for his whole career. No rivaling locker-room egos, no players taking his touches away, just Jimmy Buckets on a big market team that needs some veteran leadership.
As El Heat’s number one option, Butler could be the bridge from the Dwyane Wade years. On a team with no set-in-stone 2nd option, he very well may take north of 20 FGA a game, shattering his previous career-high being 16.5 in the 16-17 season with Chicago. Don’t be surprised to see some peak numbers from Butler.
His scoring ability will not be the only thing on display in South Beach. This Miami Heat roster has the perfect pieces to fit around the 4-time NBA All-Star. On a sneakily talented roster filled out with former All-Star Goran Dragic, aspiring playmaker Justice Winslow, and young talents Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, Butler could showcase his abilities as a facilitator.
Whether Spolestra sets up a pick-and-pop with 7-foot shooter Meyers Leonard or leaves Jimmy alone as the pure-iso scorer, this team can get buckets in a variety of ways. Even if former comeback story Dion Waiters may suffer, this is an easy price to pay for team success.
The ceiling of this team is no greater than a 1st or 2nd round exit, but we’ve seen numerous times what Butler can do with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. Crafty 12th-year coach Erik Spoelstra can help Butler reach new heights and reshape his reputation around the league.