It’s hard enough to fight the uphill battle without Bam Adebayo, but being without Jimmy Butler takes that to an entirely different level.
Over the last 4 games without Jimmy Butler, the Heat have the 29th best defensive rating in the NBA, which is usually the case when you’re 2 best defenders are out of the lineup essentially. One being out means comfortable adjustments can be made. Both being out means you do creative things like run a 2-3 zone at all times with your second unit.
We haven’t gotten a good enough look at life without Adebayo, but that initial observation should be made tonight. With Butler expected to return, it’s time for the Miami Heat to get back to some type of normalcy.
When I say “normalcy,” I’m mostly pointing to the offensive adjustments that have been made over the last week. Yes, they have a fantastic play-maker running the show out on the perimeter, but they basically lost their base play-makers who operate from the interior.
Butler and Adebayo are known for working from the mid-post at least one time every trip down the floor, which then trickles down to putting pressure on the rim for some simple kick-outs. While life without both Adebayo and Butler has equated to straight flame throwing from three. Living or dying beyond the arc.
But like I said, change is coming.
Adebayo is as irreplaceable as it gets in this league, especially defensively, but we’ve seen Miami try to carry some things over in that sense. PJ Tucker taking over most of the DHO sets, and Dewayne Dedmon works them occasionally as well. Dedmon can also operate as that much needed roll presence without Adebayo, which means they’re just picking some of Bam’s skills up at a less elite level.
But without Butler, you can’t even try to do his work at a lesser level.
As we’ve seen as of late, they’ve pretty much abandoned all of the things he does well on a regular basis, and piled up on more perimeter aspects. More shots for Duncan Robinson, higher usage for Tyler Herro, etc.
When Caleb Martin, Max Strus, or even Herro enter the lineup for Butler, nobody is trying to emulate him offensively, because you simply can’t.
His free throw attempts can’t be matched, which have dropped to 29th in the league over the last 4 games.
His drives to the basket can’t be matched, since the only player who can draw close to as many people into the lane on the attack is out for the next 4 to 6 weeks.
His control of the game can’t be matched, while even though Kyle Lowry can speed you up into straight chaos, they’ve needed that guy who can slow things down to not let the game get out of hand.
But well, now Jimmy Butler is back, and they’re heading straight into a period of time that is theirs to have. The next 10 days may be tough with Memphis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia up to bat on the schedule, but the following two weeks will be Butler time.
Orlando twice, Detroit twice, Indiana, Washington, San Antonio, and Houston. There’s a path to surviving without Bam Adebayo, and it begins with a strong finish to December, spearheaded by one of the league’s greatest leaders, Jimmy Butler.
Starting tonight, the Heat can move a little closer to homebase in terms of schematics, and that’s all you can ask for in this short-handed part of the season.
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