Kyle Lowry has been a hot topic among Heat conversations this off-season for obvious reasons. He was the first name on the free agency big board, and his all-around game has led to the belief that he will elevate every player on the floor by doing many different things.
The first thing many have looked to is the impact he will have on Bam Adebayo. I have talked about this extensively, just due to the fact it will essentially be the first true point guard he has played with in Miami.
It’ll be a slight flashback for him, taking him back a few years when he was a rim runner following the draft process. But clearly his talent exceeded those expectations. Other than being a lob threat, we will see a ton of Lowry’s off ball spacing making an impact on the hopeful offensive takeover for Adebayo, plus many more beneficial offensive sets.
The point is that always seems to be the starting point.
Next on that list has to be Jimmy Butler, since well, that’s basically what got Lowry to Miami in the first place. The off-court connection of Lowry and Butler seems like it’ll translate well to the on-court duo. But as many things as Lowry will change for Butler, what will he benefit from the most?
A case can be made that it’s that secondary attacker finally lining up next to him. Of course there were capable drivers on the floor with him previously, but none who can put as much pressure on the rim as Butler does, while doing it in isolation possessions instead of constant screen work.
While that may be huge for Butler and company, I don’t see that being the ”number one” element.
Another point that I’ve constantly made is the idea of another play-maker at the top of the roster, releasing the passing pressure that is put on Butler and Adebayo at all times. Both of them will obviously still be play-making a ton on the team next season, but they can do it much more freely instead of the forceful way in the past.
All of the offensive stuff is great, which I’ve spent a ton of time going over in the off-season, but the number one shift in Butler’s game will occur on the defensive end. And yes, it’s a positive shift.
Why was Trevor Ariza added at the trade deadline last season? Part of it was that they needed a starting four after the Moe Harkless experiment didn’t work out, but the main reason was that they needed some defensive pressure taken off both Adebayo and Butler.
Adebayo constantly found himself in an uneven spot on the perimeter while guards were being taken advantage of on the block. Butler, on the other hand, had too much of a regular season burden guarding the opposing teams’ best guard. That was the Ariza task upon arrival, and he played that role pretty well.
This new Heat roster won’t have many defensive issues, and that’s because Jimmy Butler will be in his comfort zone, and in my opinion, his number one strength on the basketball court: weak-side defending.
Let me just say he will get plenty of on-ball reps against talented wing players like Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton, etc. But with Lowry guarding each team’s most talented back-court member and Adebayo ready for the switch, there won’t be as many lapses. Lowry’s ability to fight through screens will be on display, and less rotational frenzies will occur.
Butler may have to be less of an offensive decision maker with Lowry on the roster, but now he will have to be more of a defensive decision maker. Choosing when to avoid the corner shooter for lane cut-offs, instinctive doubles at the elbow, or pure off-ball denial to eliminate that weak-side shooter.
That is when Butler is at his best, and that’ll be his role for a majority of the season. Yes, less hard fouls will be taken with Lowry in the offense. Yes, he can play off the catch a bit more with Lowry setting others up. But allowing Butler to slide into weak-side dominance is the true key.
Adebayo will be right up there at the top this season for DPOY once again, but don’t be surprised if Butler’s name is high on that list as well. And it’s all due to that one awaited piece who has the ability to propel others around him in a major way: Kyle Lowry.
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