When you hear the name Jimmy Butler, there’s a lot of things that may come to mind. Grit, hard-work, overcoming the odds. But well, the word impact seems to outshine any of those descriptions.
Butler has been in and out of the lineup for pretty much this entire season, but after missing some time with Covid, he has played the last seven games and has been absolutely rolling.
For starters, he’s averaging 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists a game since he returned from that unfortunate break, leading Miami to a 5-2 record in that span.
And yet, nothing compares to the outstanding changes that he brought on the defensive side of the ball. There are players that are just absolute great individual defenders, there are guys who can protect the rim, and there are people who are great team defenders.
But great defensive impact is when you alter a team’s overall image.
Miami went from being one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, to being second in defensive rating since Butler returned. This has a lot to do with his overall presence on the perimeter, as well as deflecting passes and being a disruptor. But the biggest reason is the level of leadership he brings to the game, and that is not an overstatement.
Hearing about on-court leadership may seem a bit cliche at times, but with Butler it’s far from that. This team constantly discusses holding each other accountable while not taking anything personal, and that’s exactly what has changed as of late. If somebody makes a late rotation on a certain possession, they will hear it from Butler right after the play or in the huddle.
And that right there is defensive impact. That right there is a leader. That right there is Jimmy Butler.
The key for Miami moving forward in this West Coast road trip is sustainability while Butler takes a breather on the bench. Surviving the non-Butler minutes is always essential, but it’s even harder when Goran Dragic is out.
The offensive rating with Butler on the floor since his return is 115, while it drops down to 94 when he’s off the floor. So as much as his defensive impact has been apparent, his offense has been just as great.
But as much as we can discuss role players playing their role, imagining certain guys healthy at the current moment, or waiting for a certain player to emerge right in front of our eyes like Max Strus, it doesn’t really matter when you have a superstar carrying the load night in and night out.
Now, him having to carry this weight this early in the season may not be what many wished for, but it’s the current situation that Miami will have to continue with.
And although Butler getting that short layoff to prepare for that outstanding bubble playoff run was important, this is a different season. So getting into an early flow for a late regular season push may not be the worst thing in the world.
Butler is taking it game-by-game, and he will do whatever it takes to win each night. No matter the weight on his shoulders, no matter who is in the lineup, no matter the opponent. Jimmy Butler’s impact will be felt on this Heat team.