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Miami Heat 2020-21 player review: Jimmy Butler

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Miami’s leader enjoyed another stellar season, but he was unable to lift his team in the postseason this time.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of year: Reviewing the previous season!

It’s now officially the offseason for the Miami Heat, who were swept out of the first round in the NBA playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks — losing their four games by a combined 82 points.

Before we deep dive into everything regarding the future months for this team, let’s discuss the seasons for Heat players that played in the 2020-21 NBA season and finished on the active roster.

For our fifth player review — conducted in alphabetical order — we will be reviewing two-way stalwart Jimmy Butler. Here’s the previous four Heat players we’ve reviewed thus far.

Let’s dive into it!

Brief Overview:

2020-21 season stats (52 games):

  • 21.5 PPG
  • 6.9 RPG
  • 7.1 APG
  • 2.1 SPG (led NBA)
  • 49.7 field goal percentage
  • 60.7 true shooting percentage
  • 26.5 player efficiency rating

Butler entered 2020-21 after one of the most impressive postseason runs in recent memory. And despite the 71-day offseason, an immediate ankle injury followed by contracting COVID-19 (causing him to lose more than a dozen pounds), Butler had the best season of his 10-year career. He set career-bests in rebounds, assists, steals, field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, box plus-minus (7.5) and PER, among other stats. Butler, an elite two-way talent, could be on his way to appearances on the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams.

Numbers to note:

2.1 - Despite his teammate Bam Adebayo receiving a majority of the Defensive Player of the Year hype — even from Butler himself — the 6-foot-7 two-way force is well on his way to making an All-Defensive team appearance. He posted an NBA-best 2.1 steals per game, the first time in his career he’s led the league in steals. Don’t turn your back, literally, because Butler’s instinctual prowess has led him to wrecking multiple actions from behind when players have least expected it.

7.1 - Throughout his 10-year career, Butler hasn’t been known for his playmaking acumen. But the narrative has certainly changed with the Heat. He averaged 6.9 assists in 2019-20, followed with a career-best 7.1 assist mark in 2020-21. Butler trusts his teammates more than anyone — even when the cry for “takeover, Jimmy” erupts in crucial moments.

He dispatched five assists or more in 42 games throughout 2020-21 — two fewer than his career-high set in 2016-17. Butler recorded double-digit assists in a career-most 10 games in 2020-21 without tallying more than eight in any of his previous nine NBA seasons.

67.4 - Butler’s shooting, or lack thereof, has been well-documented. In his first eight seasons, Butler shot 34.1 percent from 3-point range on 2.7 attempts per game; in two years with Miami, he shot 24.4 percent from deep on 2.5 attempts. Despite Butler’s shooting struggles, he finished with over a 60.0 true shooting percentage for the first time of his career. In large part, it’s due to his efficiency from the free-throw line and, more importantly, at the rim. According to Cleaning The Glass, he netted a career-best 67.4 percent of his shots at the rim that placed him in the 75th percentile amongst players who play a similar position— ranking fourth — behind Jaylen Brown, Luka Doncic and LeBron James — amongst other wings who attempted at least 250 shots at the rim this season. That’s not shabby company.

Butler doesn’t routinely jack up 30-foot 3s like luminary talents Trae Young, Damian Lillard or Stephen Curry, nor does he consume the “I only shoot 3s unless I’m quadruple-teamed” mindset imprinted in teammates Duncan Robinson and Max Strus. That’s not his game; whether it’s a timely cut, rejecting the pick-and-roll (a famous Butler move) or quickly identifying an open lane, Butler’s play style is manifested by dipping his (oftentimes left) shoulder and attacking downhill with brute force without conscience of who awaits ahead.

Best game?

Feb. 26 vs. Utah Jazz

Where do I start? There’s a lot of great choices to choose from. But in my view, his best game was his Feb. 26 performance against the Utah Jazz. In the 124-116 home victory, Butler recorded a game-high 33 points — tying his season-high — on 12-of-22 shooting and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line. He added 10 rebounds with eight dimes and a steal. The 6-foot-7 wing tallied 19 points in the second half, including seven in the final 4:05.

According to John Hollinger’s game-score statistic — which measures overall productivity — Butler’s best game of the 2020-21 season came six games later on March 14 against the intrastate foe Orlando Magic with a game-score of 34.2. He had 29 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and five steals in the five-point road victory.

What’s next?

Butler has two years left on his deal, including a $37.6M player option for the 2022-23 season. Per multiple reports, Butler is eligible for a four-year, $181 million extension this offseason—effectively paying him at least $40 million for four straight seasons starting in 2022-23. Here’s how the approximate dollar figures would work, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

  • 2022-23: $40.5M (Age 33 season)
  • 2023-24: $43.8M (Age 34 season)
  • 2024-25: $47.0M (Age 35 season)
  • 2025-26: $50.3M (Age 36 season)

As the roster is currently constructed, the list Heat players under payroll for 2022-23 would be Butler, Adebayo, Herro and Precious Achiuwa. It’s no secret that the NBA has chaotic year-to-year player movement. One way or the other, the amount of Heat players under contract for 2022-23 will likely increase at the end of the current offseason. With the upcoming cap raises, the Heat will have plenty of cap flexibility to offer Butler — a franchise cornerstone — the high-priced extension.

That said, with these extensions, as Marks noted — there’s debate on whether teams should pay players based off past results instead of opting for flexibility. The Heat have likely answered that looming question already: They’re rumored to likely offer Butler that extension.

Whether you think they should extend Butler or not, he will have plenty of input this offseason — and in the foreseeable future — for acquiring talent. He plans to act upon it, too.

“I’ve got to be active ... Myself, Bam, hell probably Tyler [Herro], some other guys, as well. They’re going to ask and we have to be honest,” Butler said in his exit interview. “But at the end of the day, that’s not our job either. Whoever we get the opportunity to play with, we’ve got to go out there and compete.”

The Heat weren’t very active last offseason — and it didn’t work out as planned. Now, Heat execs Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg must devise a new plan that must work this offseason in order to maximize their championship window.