When the bat signal appears, Jimmy Butler emerges in vigilante form -- breaking norms and defenses!
At his best, Butler combines his extensive basketball IQ with his unmatched physicality to bust up defensive coverages with rim attacks, timely cuts and -- when he's really feeling it -- jumpers smooth enough to make Bruce Wayne blush.
On Wednesday, Butler led the Miami Heat to a much-needed 115-106 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Kaseya Center. Behind his 31 points on 81 TS%, the Heat's eyesore of a seven-game losing streak was snapped. This wasn't a one-off performance, as his points and efficiency have started to percolate over the last three contests (28 points on 73 TS%). With superstar-like scoring, Butler can position this Heat team where it longs to be.
The Heat have been underrated in the regular season for years due to not having a "Guy." The naysayers contend that Miami doesn't have a top-10 player. The skeptics aren't necessarily wrong. Butler hasn't played at that level all season, and they've lacked someone they can throw the ball to who'll successfully bail the team out.
There's no need for bailout shots when he is tip-toeing behind defenders with Joker trickery.
Butler's been an excellent cutter dating back to his Marquette days. Superstar scorers rack up many points off the ball and on the backs of sleeping defenders. Butler calms the game down with these darts around the basket. With the Heat struggling to score (five points worse than the league average), Butler turning up the cutting intensity could revitalize this offense.
For the Heat not to have a Guy, Butler sure does get superstar treatment from the proverbial zebras with his eight free throw attempts per game. He doesn't get to the line with Shakespeare-like theatrics like his peers. He's earning every blow of the whistle he gets.
Butler puts his head down and muscles his way to the rack. With nifty footwork-- Butler's spin moves and half pivot remain one of the silkiest moves around the basket in the league -- and ginormous Tomball shoulders, Butler has no problem absorbing contact.
He's cutting for easy buckets and getting to the line a ton, making 88.5% of his free throws. What's the game plan when he shoots 62% from three and makes midrange jumpers at an automatic clip? As we saw in the playoffs last season, there are no answers, only prayers.
The Heat are 7-2 this season when Butler scores 28 or more points.
It's unlikely that Butler will continue making shots at this blistering rate, but he's keeping defenses honest by taking the attempts. He's still shooting 44% from deep on the season (albeit on low volume). It's in there. We've seen Butler rise to the occasion time after time in the postseason.
Sure, we're only in February, but it was time for Jimmy Butler to respond to the bat signal a little early this year. It's a lot to ask of the 34-year-old vet, but the Heat need it. He has the remedy for their scoring wounds. Butler is supposed to be this team's superstar, and he's been showing us why. These performances will become the norm as Miami makes its playoff push.