Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler is making a legit NBA MVP case

NBA Miami Heat Jimmy Butler (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
NBA Miami Heat Jimmy Butler (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

At 18-6, the Miami Heat have never gotten off to a better start. Jimmy Butler deserves NBA MVP consideration for remodeling the identity of the franchise

At 18-6, the Miami Heat are off to their best start in franchise history. Want to know why? It’s because they’re being led by the gritty, blue-collar, four-time All-Star, Jimmy Butler.

Not only does Butler posses star-level talent and elite defensive instincts, but he also brings a rare, unique style of leadership that has resonated throughout the team this season.

Their early success has been predicated on a culture that Butler established prior to training camp. Whether it be from his famous 3:00 am practices, or the fact that he demands maximum effort out of his teammates, Butler’s incredible drive has seemed to rub off on everyone within the Heat organization.

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Over the summer, the product out of Marquette decided to head down south, as he agreed upon a four-year, $141 million deal from the Heat. The Philadelphia 76ers offered Butler a five-year, $190 million contract that he turned down in favor of Miami’s – sacrificing nearly $50 million.

It became evident that Jimmy Butler sought out a role to be the number one option for a team, considering the fact that he played third fiddle – and compromised his skillset – a season ago in Philly behind Simmons and Embiid.

Throughout the years, it has become readily apparent that Butler has a monumental impact wherever he lands. For example, in the 2017-18 season, Butler earned Minnesota their first playoff berth since 2004 in his first season; improving their win total by 16.

The next season he served as the focal point for Philly during the postseason and averaged 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists during their 12 game playoff span. More importantly, he emerged as their clutch performer in close games. Butler had a 37 percent usage rate and a 73.5 true shooting percentage in clutch during the playoffs.

And now, the Miami Heat have the fourth-best record in the NBA and are on pace to win 51 games.

Butler, has without a doubt, showcased the tremendous value he brings to a team on three separate occasions.

After a mentally strenuous last two seasons – whether it be forcing himself out of Minnesota, or coming to a couple of unfriendly bounces short of the Eastern Conference Finals – Jimmy Butler has, alas, found a home with Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat. This season, the 30-year-old is averaging 20 points, 6.9 rebounds, and, a team-leading, 7.0 assists in 35 minutes per contest.

Prior to Butler’s arrival, the Miami Heat failed to make the postseason a season ago. They finished the year with a 39-43 record and placed 10th in the Eastern Conference. Now, with Jimmy interjected onto the roster the Heat have pushed themselves into the upper echelon in the Eastern Conference.

With JB at the helm, Miami’s offensive rating has improved from being ranked 26th (106.7) a season ago to 10th (110.0) this year. Their improved offensive rating is a result of their increased assist numbers. The Heat currently ranks sixth in the league with an assist percentage ranking of 63.6 percent. Along with the team’s improved statistical ratings, Butler currently ranks 10th in the league in Real Plus/Minus (4.55).

Jimmy Butler has also brought the intangibles on and off the court. He’s built camaraderie and perpetual trust with his teammates. Especially with the young guys such as Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, and Duncan Robinson.

The 6-foot-7 forward, fresh off of Eastern Conference player of the week, continues to showcase his clutch gene that is comparable to the elite stars in the league. His dagger 3-pointer against the Washington Wizards, individual 8-0 run against the Toronto Raptors in overtime, and 3-point shot to force overtime against Atlanta, all occurred within the span of a week. Butler is easily one of the best fourth-quarter performers in the league and has been on a tear as of late.

He’s averaged 26 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.8 assists over his last five games.

The term MVP is often misused. Being crowned the most valuable player in the league doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the best player in the game. If that were the case then Michael Jordan would’ve won the award nearly every season of his NBA career.

What it does, in fact, mean is the player that provides the most value to their organization.

For example, imagine taking Butler off the Heat, could you honestly see them making the postseason? The answer is probably not. They’d most likely wind up being a lottery pick in back-to-back seasons. Jimmy Butler has the resumé to prove that he can exponentially improve a team with what he brings to the table.

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All that being said, Jimmy Butler’s unwillingness to be complacent has allowed himself to immerse into the MVP conversation. If he continues his stellar play and Miami remains a juggernaut in the East, then Butler may have as good as chance as any once the season wraps up to win the illustrious award.