NBA All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler has received the reputation of a player who is hard to play with and incredibly demanding, however, as we watch teams slowly seem to implode following his departure, it appears that Butler might be the NBA’s truth serum.
For six years, Butler donned the Chicago Bulls jersey after being a scrappy Marquette guard, averaging 8.5 minutes in 42 games and eventually blossoming into one of the best two-way players in the East.
His time ended in friction between Butler and some of his veteran teammates, the coaching staff, and the young players.
It was not long after getting shipped off to the Minnesota Timberwolves that more problems arose. A rift between critical youth on the team (Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins) and the All-Star drew clouds over the organization’s first real success in a decade and a half.
After a practice that will live in infamy (Butler destroyed the first team with the third team, while verbally abusing them), the guard was again shipped out, this time to the Philadelphia 76ers last season.
Surly, a city as gnarly as Philly would be a match made in heaven for Jimmy Buckets.
However, the script that kept his stay in Minnesota brief followed him to the city of brotherly love. Struggles to get on the same page as some of the younger players forced Butler onto his third team in three years.
Now, to this point, the labels that started to creep up at the end of his stay in Chicago (bad teammate, diva, hard to play with, locker room cancer, etc.) were receiving real legs. Was all the talent worth it? Could he ever be the No. 1 player on a team again? Or would the locker room decay if he was the top option?
Instead, Butler fleshed out some of the best parts of the youth in Miami. How? Because it was already there. Guys like Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn were more than willing o take the challenge of starting the day working at 3:30 a.m. because they were already extreme grinders. Duncan Robinson was ready to be patient as he rose through the professional ranks because he was patient on the bench for Michigan back in college. Tyler Herro was going to step up to the challenge of earning all his shots next to Butler because Herro was confident back at Kentucky.
His whole career, Butler has desperately tried to tell teams about the condition of their locker room and the mismanagement of their youth, and no one listened.
He spoke out about how older players on the Bulls, like Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, needed to let him lead the team. Rose averaged 16 points per game in 2015-2016 (his final season in Chicago) and shot barely over 40 percent from the field and 29 percent from three. Noah averaged four points. Butler led the team in scoring, assists, steals, win shares and offense box plus/minus. He also held the most effective field goal percentage of any Chicago Bull who attempted more than one three per game.
Nevertheless, Butler was shipped off to Minnesota two seasons later, and every veteran who refused to give up the reigns (from Rose to Dwyane Wade) has either retired or now comes off the bench.
In Minnesota, the criticism from the word go was energy, a problem that plagued that team well before the star from Marquette donned a blue jersey. Since 2014, the Timberwolves have allowed over 50 percent efficient field shooting, flirting with the worst fourth-quarter defense in the NBA for six straight years. On offense, the Wolves are just as bad, cracking the top 10 only once in points scored in the fourth quarter, more often sitting in the bottom half of the league. Butler’s crime, while on the roster, was asking a team with two #1 draft picks on max deals to push for greatness. They haven’t, and now the Wolves are the second-worst team in the West and traded all but two members of the team at the most recent deadline.
In Philly, Butler proved to be one of the most valuable players in the playoffs, second on the team in scoring and by far the best defender. He even showed chemistry with Joel Embiid and the two stars showed a complimentary game. And the problems Butler reportedly had with the 76ers system? Well, the two young stars in Embiid and Ben Simmons do not have compatible games, a problem exacerbated by head coach Brett Brown’s insistence on them playing big minutes together. Now, Butler is gone, and the same locker room drama seems to have followed Philly anyways.
Butler is an All-Star, who can lead a team in scoring, take away an opponent’s top scorer, and play off the ball. He is also a leader, with an insane work ethic, pushing himself towards perfection and striving to lead his teammates towards the same end. Each team Butler has left the locker room had its problems, and the youth were not ready to truly reach another level personally and as a team. Miami is ready to be molded, and they might have a run to the Finals in them because of it.