Jimmy Butler tried to carry his team to an NBA championship in 2020. While Miami lost to LA, the Heat forward’s impressive play and defense again LeBron James had everyone talking. This season, Miami struggled at the onset; Butler was out due to COVID-19 protocols, and it hurt the team.
Now that he’s back, they’ve returned to winning. But true to his nature Butler is taking things in a different direction. Instead of pulling his points from threes, the 31-year-old is taking more shots from shorter ranges and burying the competition. How will this help Miami? If their play since his return is any indication, they may end up back in the NBA finals.
Jimmy Butler’s impressive NBA Finals performance
Sure, the Lakers may have won the 2020 NBA Finals, and LeBron James earned the series MVP, but the true head-turner throughout was Jimmy Butler. With fellow teammates Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic injured, Butler needed to step up his play for the Heat to even compete — and he did just that.
In Game 3, the Heat pulled out a victory 115-104, with Butler finishing with 40 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds. Those stats are combined with the fact that he went head to head with James, an exhausting feat all on its own.
While those stats are staggering, here’s another. Of those 40 points, none of them were three-pointers. Butler’s known to launch a few from behind the arc, so not even attempting a shot from downtown shows how his play is starting to change. And the change is the opposite of most NBA teams.
Miami’s dismal start to the season
After a shortened offseason, the Miami Heat started 2021 on the wrong note. Their record was 7-13 and everyone wondered when the defending Eastern Conference champs would look like the team of old. Injuries and COVID-19 protocols interfered with the team’s ability to connect. The loss of Butler on the court made it clear how important he is to the team.
Since his return, the Heat have gone 15-6 and are continuing to climb up the standings. Butler’s ball control and ability to limit turnovers have increased Miami’s possession. Now, they have someone that can drive down the lane and either attract a foul or pass the ball to the open player for a quick score.
Jimmy Butler is limiting his three-point shots
The modern NBA makes three-point shooting the norm. Superstars like Steph Curry and James Harden have built their careers around their long-range prowess. In a game that used to rely heavily on the big man. Think Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and even as recently as Shaquille O’Neal, that just isn’t the case in today’s NBA.
Most teams are looking for players that specialize in three-pointers. The mindset of many present-day NBA teams is that three-pointers are better than twos. A guy like Butler is challenging that notion. FiveThirtyEight looked in-depth at Butler’s share of three-pointers taken over his career. They noted that he’s trending on a downward scale for years now.
He’s taken fewer three-point shots than anyone except Ben Simmons, but it’s working for him. He’s recording more assists, has few turnovers, and gets his team to score points. Considering his team entered a dismal losing streak while he was out, it’s obvious whatever he’s doing is effective. Maybe this is the start of more and more players getting away from the three-point line. Maybe it’s not, but whatever Butler is doing, it’s working for him and his Miami Heat team.