With the NBA playoffs beginning, the challenge that the players will face in their quest for a championship becomes clearer. While it’s foolish to argue that this restart will decide the legacy of an NBA player or organization, it certainly can help to build up one should they go the distance.
Just as Hercules had to overcome 12 challenges or labors in order to prove himself to be worthy, NBA superstars will be taxed in a way they never have before. Superstars will be responsible for carrying their teams on the court like usual but they will also have to keep their groups focused, engaged, and united in their quests for a championship. Here are the biggest challenges that 12 NBA superstars will face as they seek to win the title. Fresh from slinging coffee at $20 a pop…Jimmy Butler.
Bad teammate. Volatile locker-room personality. Combative with coaches. Jimmy Butler came to Miami this season with all of these tags. After getting forcing his way out of Chicago and Minnesota, then seeking a change of scenery from Philadelphia these labels have never echoed louder. Now with the Miami Heat, Jimmy has never looked so comfortable at home, and at peace — well for as much at peace as Jimmy can be. He’s led the Heat to a 5th seed in the East and a record of 44-29. His play and leadership this season has caused many to shift their focus and views of Jimmy’s prior stops. Each of the teams he’s fled have floundered in his absence and the organizations have shown degrees of ineptitude that point to them being the problem not Jimmy.
Finally, in an organization that rewards combativeness, seeks players who thrive in confrontation, and put egos aside for the sake of winning it is no surprise he is thriving. Jimmy averaged 19 ppg and career highs in rebounds (6.7), assists (6), and free throw attempts (9.1). Statistically he was very similar to his final campaign in Chicago of 2016-2017.
Going into the season very few outside of the Miami local media were people giving Heat much a chance at a top 4-5 seed in the Eastern Conference. As the Heat’s strong season marched on more national media attention came, yet the majority of it went towards others. Bam Adebayo had emerged as a Most Improved candidate and made his first all-star game. Kendrick Nunn went from G-Leaguer to Rookie of the Year finalist. Tyler Herro had some big 4th quarters and is getting some All-Rookie team buzz. Even 2nd year wing Duncan Robinson who came from nowhere to be a flamethrower from three — he’s shooting a ridiculous 45% on them — has gotten a lot of love.
Ask Jimmy who’s the reason for the Heat’s excellence this season and he’ll name 10 other guys before mentioning himself, but make no mistake about it. Jimmy Butler is why Miami is where they are today. Miami has always prided itself on being a tough, hardworking, great conditioned team and Jimmy brings more of each of those things. What Jimmy brings that the Heat have lacked since prime Dwyane Wade is a half-court creator. Someone who can settle a team down in tough situations. Can get to the line when his team is struggling to get a bucket. Can lock-down the opponents best perimeter player or get a timely deflection. Who can create for himself and others late in games. And most importantly someone who is supremely confident and not afraid in big moments (he’s a bad…just ask him).
It’s for all of these reasons and more that the Heat have a great chance to upset some of the top teams in the East. If the Heat get the Jimmy Butler that put away the Raptors in OT in December then they will be in great shape.
Now with all that being said, Jimmy will have to shoot it better from the outside if the Heat hope to do said upsetting. He’s largely abandoned his three point shot this season — he’s only taken 925, the lowest amount since his 3rd NBA season — as he’s only hit 25% of them, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s also struggled mightily from mid-range, shooting only 38%. Jimmy has made up for it by draw a shit ton of fouls. Per Cleaning the Glass, he’s been fouled on nearly 25% of his shot attempts. While getting to the line is helping keep his scoring afloat amid the shooting struggles. In the playoffs teams will go under every screen and dare him to hit from range. Thanks to the exceptional shooting surrounding him he won’t need to hit a ton, but he will need to take and make them — particularly in big moments — if the Heat want to prove to their detractors they have the make-up of a finals contender.
by Frank Greco (@fgreco12)