Lowry’s dogged defensive effort and ability to create off the dribble make life easier for Butler in South Beach. The former Most Improved Player explained that his teammates demand more, telling him to look for his shots and stay aggressive on the offensive end of the floor.
The Heat are one of the best teams in the NBA early in the 2021-22 season, with Butler anchoring their fast start. However, even Jimmy Butler understands he is benefiting from the little things Lowry provides to Miami.
Jimmy Butler had to take on a ton of responsibility for the Heat last season
The Heat needed Jimmy Butler to bring tons of energy on both ends last season.
Butler took on the most challenging defensive matchups on a nightly basis. He also carried Miami’s offense as one of the only guys capable of creating for himself and getting to the free-throw line.
The five-time All-Star put up big numbers. He averaged 21.5 points to go along with career-high marks in assists (7.1) and rebounds (6.9). Butler also averaged an NBA-best 2.1 steals. However, he ran out of gas.
Though he performed well during the regular season, the two-way responsibilities took a toll on Jimmy Buckets come playoff time, where the Heat got exposed by the Milwaukee Bucks. Butler averaged 14.5 points and shot below 30% from the field as the Bucks easily swept past Miami.
The playoffs highlighted Miami’s need for another capable ball-handler and creator who might also be able to lessen the amount of energy Butler had to expend on the defensive end. Kyle Lowry’s shooting efficiency leaves much to be desired, but his defensive effort and strong distribution make Butler a more dynamic threat.
Butler explained how Kyle Lowry’s arrival changed his role and made him a more assertive player
Jimmy Butler understood his role would change as soon as the Heat orchestrated a sign-and-trade to ink Kyle Lowry to a three-year, $85 million deal this past summer. In particular, this meant more scoring.
Butler explained the difference between past iterations of himself and this year’s version. He said (h/t Miami Herald) that his teammates, especially Lowry, are asking him to be more aggressive.
“I get to go back and score the ball a lot more. That doesn’t mean I can’t pass. I still take pride in getting my teammates open, as well. But I do get to jack up some shots. I don’t think I’ve shot as many shots as I’ve shot in the last couple of games in a very long time. But coaches ask me to do it and Kyle is asking me to be aggressive. I’m just listening to my guys.”–Jimmy Butler, via the Miami Herald
Indeed, Butler is scoring more. He’s averaging a career-high 25.3 points through six games while shooting 52.9% from the field. He’s still getting his assists, too, with 5.5 dimes per contest. But that playmaking comes from a more concentrated effort on putting the ball in the hoop. Lowry has a lot to do with that.
Aside from encouraging Butler to score, Lowry is averaging a team-high 7.2 assists. He gets Miami running in transition, as evidenced by Butler’s seven points per game in transition. Additionally, Lowry’s ability to run the offense and space the floor gives Butler more room to operate in the post, where he’s excelling this season.
Moreover, Lowry’s defensive acumen is helping a Heat team that ranks first in the league in defensive rating. He’s capable of defending the best guards in the NBA, allowing Butler to be more aggressive playing the passing lanes and offering help on drives.
Jimmy Buckets is already playing at a high level. But he’ll keep ascending if Lowry busts out of his shooting slump.
Butler should be even more dangerous once Kyle Lowry finds his shooting stroke
Saturday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies is an excellent example of how good Butler can be when Lowry is also in rhythm offensively.
Lowry had his best game of the season, scoring 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. He also dished out eight assists. He occasionally served as a screener for Butler and flared for open triples, forcing help defenders to make tough decisions and giving Butler options as a scorer or playmaker.
Lowry’s performance had a pretty telling impact on Butler. The 32-year-old got to the rim at will, scoring 27 points and making 10-of-11 from the charity stripe. He also committed just one turnover in over 30 minutes of run.
Butler leads the NBA in win shares (1.7) and is tied for the lead in value over replacement player (0.7) for a Heat team that ranks first in net rating. He’s got an early case for MVP, and his resume should continue to look more compelling if Lowry finds his touch.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.