Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Jimmy Butler is the kind of gamer you feel.
On defense and offense, in loss and triumph, pregame and postgame, through practice and tales of 3 a.m. wake-up calls, you feel him. Find out about him. See him. His footprint is all over, his hand in whatever, and he lets you understand about it.
He galvanizes He grates. You feel him when he exists. You feel his lack when he’s not. He taunts He trolls He rescues. He specifies, generally for better, even when you might be persuaded it’s for even worse.
Simply ask the Miami Heat, working through season No. 1 of the Jimmy Butler experience, on the heels of their 115-104 triumph in Video game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal. Or ask the Milwaukee Bucks, one of the league’s primary title favorites, who were on the losing end of his 40- point detonation, which likewise takes place to be his playoff profession high.
Better yet, ask the Philadelphia 76 ers, particularly Joel Embiid, who had Butler last season, signed and traded him to Miami, rotated to a lineup makeup straight out of the 1990 s and are now viewing the postseason unfold from home, without a head coach:
Ask the Chicago Bulls, another previous team:
Ask the Minnesota Timberwolves, too:
In the grand scheme, Butler’s efficiency Monday night wasn’t a revelation, not for himself or Miami, not even for Milwaukee or Philadelphia. It was, for the most part, more of Butler being Butler, impacting video games and influencing outcomes as superstars do. Call it a reinforcement, of everything, not a surprise.
The Heat are utilized to nights like Monday. Butler is now entrenched as their heart beat. The unrelenting pressure he puts on defenses– in addition to playing his own dogged defense– is basic.
Sure, the Bucks made life harder on him around the rim, where he butters his bread. He prepared them anyhow. He finished 8-of-10 outside the restricted area, including 2-of-2 from three-point variety, and still tossed his normal parade to the free-throw line (12- of-13).
This didn’t quite feel like a takeover until the fourth quarter, which is unusual, since Butler put in 25 points through 3 frames. That 4th quarter, and crunch time, was simply something else. He tallied 15 points in just under 9 minutes while trying just one shot inside the restricted area, delivering dagger after dagger:
That is the high-end of Jimmy Butler. He is a better. His video game is built for it, produced it, even if the numbers might state otherwise.
He shot simply 24.4 percent from deep and 38.4 percent on two-point jumpers throughout the routine season. His clutch-time splits weren’t great. So what? Miami will be content if he fires off shades-of-Kawhi Leonard jumpers, especially when he’s so good at reaching the charity stripe anyway. Among every player to make a minimum of 10 crunch-time looks, only Embiid and James Harden averaged more free-throw attempts per 36 minutes.
Butler’s playmaking has shown pivotal to the Heat. He averaged a career-high 6 helps during the regular season. Cool story. He had a higher crunch-time use rate than Luka Doncic and LeBron James. Table-setting isn’t his task down the stretch, with the game on the line. He’ll let you understand about that, too:
Indeed, the Heat are stylish Miami-in-six choices for a number of factors. Their protective optionality is frustrating, perhaps ready-made for the matchup with Milwaukee.
If you might construct a player specifically for the sake of bugging Giannis Antetokounmpo, it might be Bam Adebayo. And yet Adebayo wasn’t his main defender in Game 1. Miami tossed Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala and, yes, Butler at him. It worked.
Antetokounmpo appeared less than deific. He took just 4 shots in the limited location, transforming 2, and just 12 in general. He did attempt 12 free throws, of which he made 4, however the Heat by and large been successful at keeping him away from the basket and coaxing the ball out of his hands.
Their opportunities are likewise buoyed by their own shot-making. The Bucks welcome 3s, and the Heat delight in them. Milwaukee neutralized human weapon Duncan Robinson, and it didn’t matter. Miami constantly has enough shooters.
Tyler Herro went 3-of-6 from distance. Crowder went 3-of-7. Disney World Jimmy Butler is more purposeful with his three-point attempts, and he’s in fact making them.
Goran Dragic sleeps in fireproof pajamas. Adebayo does not need to strike the mid-range jumpers the Dollars leave for him to make an impact, however he did. His playmaking will be a benefit if the Heat plan to determine a half-court-oriented pace.
Everything else that renders Miami a tantalizing upset factor to consider is still secondary to Butler, and what he represents.
Throughout a series, especially this series, he might not be the very best player on the floor. On any provided night, in any given minute, he may be. Every contender, at minimum, requires that. Butler is it.
It sounds absurd initially reading, a statement of the apparent. This isn’t obvious– or at least not obvious enough. Chicago willingly traded him. Minnesota bungled … something– chemistry, prioritizing the monetary versatility to renegotiate his contract, something. Philly didn’t make him enough of a priority
This isn’t revisionist history for the sake of propping up Butler. The Bulls have few excuses. Butler was in the top-10 discussion with them. The Timberwolves may be worthy of some freedom. Butler’s exit was needlessly unpleasant. Part of that is on him. Another part of that, the larger part, is on then coach-president Tom Thibodeau for not acting quicker despite having the details and indicates needed to pull the ripcord.
The end to Butler’s time with the Sixers was complicated. It doesn’t appear to be a matter of his just leaving or their refusing to offer him the complete five-year max. His fit with Ben Simmons, his relationship with then-head coach Brett Brown and Philly’s need to shore up the center minutes behind Embiid all factored in:
Yaron Weitzman @YaronWeitzman
No one would accuse me of being a Sixers apologist, however If we’re gon na re-litigate the choice to let Butler go I do think it is very important to have all proper context:
Once more: This all appears obvious now.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.