The Miami Heat officially clinched a playoff spot with their Tuesday night road win over the Boston Celtics. And Miami did it without Jimmy Butler for the second half, which is even more impressive. The Heat struggled early this season when Butler missed 10 games due to COVID-19 protocols and have looked better with their five-time All-Star on the floor.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe said that Butler has “had the most under-appreciated, under the radar, great season in the NBA.” Lowe has even said that he has a chance to make All-NBA First Team — he’s only ever made the Third Team. He’s averaging 21 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, two steals with a 60 percent true shooting percentage — something only Michael Jordan has ever done.
"He's had the most under appreciated, under the radar, great season in the NBA."— ESPN Podcasts (@espnpodcasts) May 11, 2021
.@ZachLowe_NBA and ESPN's @kevinarnovitz discuss the play-in races, the All-NBA ballot and more!
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As Nekias Duncan said in a recent profile on Butler, to be this efficient in today’s NBA without a respectable 3-point shot is an absurd feat. (Butler, though, is shooting 42 percent on mid-range jumpers, 10 percentage points higher than last season.) And though Bam Adebayo has gotten deserved consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year award, Butler is also having a great defensive season in his own right. Aside from leading the league in steals, Miami’s defense is five points better with Butler on the floor.
And yet, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer didn’t select Butler for any of the All-NBA teams or either of the All-Defensive teams teams in a recent article. Due to Butler’s early absence and Miami’s middling record, he wasn’t selected as an All-Star this year. Could we see him have a great season — better than his first year with the Heat — but get no recognition for it?
To be fair, O’Connor lists the wings who are in contention for the All-NBA slots — Butler is one of several players eligible at both the guard and forward spots. O’Connor puts LeBron James on his second team, and Jayson Tatum, Paul George and James Harden on the third team. “That’s a load of players having great seasons for not too many spots,” he says.
For those who love to obsess over All-NBA voting...— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) May 6, 2021
Embiid & Jokic are eligible at *both* C/F, per the official ballot.
The following are eligible at both G/F: JBrown, Tatum, LaVine, Luka, LeBron, Kawhi, PG, Butler, Middleton, Simmons, Booker.
Let the hand-wringing commence.
Does Butler get a boost for playing more games than James or Harden? With the Heat guaranteed a playoff berth and the Celtics headed for the play-in tournament, does Tatum move down a peg in comparison to Butler? Is it a toss-up between Paul George and Butler?
These are hard calls. But it’d be a shame to see Butler have such a great season and not receive any recognition for it.