Jimmy Butler: Steering the Offense for Miami

After watching the Miami Heat’s roller coaster of a night against the Los Angeles Lakers, headlined by inconsistent play and an injured Victor Oladipo, the individual performances have basically been pushed aside. But well, they shouldn’t, since although it was obvious that Jimmy Butler played well throughout the game, 28 points in the box score was a bit of a surprise.

So, let’s take a walk through Butler’s performance, while focusing on the offensive side of the ball instead of the recent defensive dives…

– The Foul Line Ease

This article could very well consist of Butler drawing fouls the entire time, but we’re not going to do that. But it is important to note the simplicity it is for him to get to the basket and draw the foul on a consistent basis.

On this play, the first thing that is seen is the amount of spacing given to Butler. Duncan Robinson, Victor Oladipo, and Trevor Ariza lined up on the perimeter on the same side, opening up the driving lane for Butler completely. He drives to the basket as Wesley Matthews defends him closely, and takes it up strong while hanging in the air to get the foul call plus the bucket.

This is nothing new when evaluating his play, but the amount of time that he hangs in the air before actually attempting the shot is a major reason for the amount of and-1’s that he converts.

– The Jumper Evaluation

We don’t see many catch and shoot threes from Butler, since most of his attempts from beyond the arc involve late shot clock jumpers off the dribble, or late-game pull-ups.

On this possession, they run a DHO off the inbound, while it gets denied leading to Butler reversing it right back. This is another one of those three-point attempts late in the shot clock, but the fundamental elements on this play reiterate the reasons for his deep ball struggles.

Although the defender may be in the way with this angle, take a look at the amount of lift he had on this shot. While some shooters on the Heat rely on timing, or others rely on confidence, Butler just needs that consistent lift in his legs, which is why shots were falling so frequently in the post-season last year.

– A Counter Player

A good analogy for Butler’s offensive play is a counter-puncher in boxing, since he constantly just reacts to the defenses initial move.

For example, Dennis Schroder reaches immediately on this play as Butler begins to back him down, and it seems like he instantly knows he’s going up for the layup in a cleared lane. He spins off of him, rolls with the contact, and gets a much needed score for Miami to give them a comfortable lead, which as we all know, the lead is never comfortable.

– A Great Game-Plan: Butler/Adebayo PnR’s

Miami came out of the half looking to make an offensive run, and it seemed like the immediate plan was to run Butler/Adebayo PnR’s, as they usually do to close out games.

It’s a pretty unique combo, since as seen here, the defense has to make a decision as Adebayo floats, due to his ability to play above the rim and find a dead-spot at the free throw line for a jumper. This allows Butler to make his quarterback read, which Andre Drummond’s final step-back led Butler into a fluid mid-range jumper.

Here’s another instance of that Butler/Adebayo PnR to begin the third, except on this play, Adebayo eliminates Matthew completely, which gives Butler all of the room to go one-on-one.

Another interesting element to this is that there aren’t many players like Butler in these situations. Most defenders are used to guys pulling up with all that room, or getting up in the air to float up and under the rim. Not Butler though, since his patience is like no other, as that slight pump-fake gets Drummond into the air, allowing him to score fairly easily.

– More Butler PnR Reads

These two possessions pretty much go hand in hand on this topic, since it refers back to his ability to read defenses so quickly and efficiently.

In this first clip, he almost gets caught in the air as both defenders focus in on him, but Precious Achiuwa quickly rolls and converts the and-1. A little bit later, Butler and Achiuwa run another PnR in the same exact spot, and it seems like Montrezl Harrell had that Achiuwa finish a few minutes prior stuck in his head, since his hesitance led to another Butler mid-range.

Everything runs so smoothly when Butler has the ball in his hands directing traffic, which makes the moments when he fades to the corner a bit to play off the ball in the first half even more apparent. Obviously, he shouldn’t be relied on every single play, but once things begin to slip away a bit with the inconsistency, it’ll be important for him to step in even sooner.

– His Presence Leads to Points

When people associate the word gravity to different NBA players, this play shows the reason why.

The initial thought on this play may be that Goran Dragic made a great cut to the basket as Butler drove, but the second time watching it shows something a bit differently. The amount of eyes on Butler on this possession is the actual reason for it, since Schroder and Morris being so worried about the Butler cut-off led to neither of them picking up Dragic on the cut.

This is only one play that is being shown, but this is a constant thing when Butler is on the floor. It’s the reason that shooters like Duncan Robinson benefit from Butler being on the floor so much, since the defensive worry he creates allows others to roam a bit more freely in the offense.

– Late-Game Butler

There isn’t much to breakdown on this play, but instead it’s the amount of times that things like this are seen. Butler’s ability late in games to basically continue to put it out of reach is like no other, since the reiterated point is that when he wants to turn it on, he can.

Isolation plays at the top of the key isn’t the usual set that Erik Spoelstra runs in these situations, but at times the decision making caters to the star player. And a big man switched onto him and an efficient scoring night are two things that contribute to that choice to basically try and will the team to win.

The best part about discussing Butler in the article like this is that it’s only half the battle, or better yet, it’s probably only 40% of the battle. The things he does on the defensive end should not be taken for granted, which particularly last night, his ability to hit passing lanes was the main reason for Miami coming out with a win.

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