Sport

Heat land NBA’s vagabond star in Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler is unapologetically Jimmy Butler.

Tough. Determined. Headstrong.

Dwyane Wade, self-proclaimed Heat Lifer, was on furlough in Miami and playing with Butler on the Bulls in 2016. Butler has chafed many of his teammates. Not Wade.

“He’s as advertised,” Wade said as a compliment.

Several years later, endorsements like that led to a surprising union between Butler and the Heat. In Wade’s long-term franchise, Butler might have finally found a team that appreciates everything he brings.

Before that, Butler had to run through tenures with the Bulls, Timberwolves and 76ers. Miami had to undertake an ambitious plan to pursue a max player despite having minimal cap flexibility.

But now Butler and the Heat are now committed to each other. This is a chance for Miami to move out of deadlock and Butler to find a home.

Butler is now on his fourth team in four years. Chicago lost interest in Butler’s hard-charging ways. Butler ran out of patience in Minnesota, where their top young players resisted his message. Butler had tension in Philadelphia, too.

He has also had plenty of success in each of those stops. In the previous three years, he has produced 30.6 win shares (11th in the NBA).

Only three players in NBA history have had more win shares while playing for four teams in four years. And that counts absolutely no production for Butler with the Heat next season, which obviously hasn’t yet begun!

One more time because it’s so incredible: This counts nothing yet from Butler next season! He has a good chance of climbing this list and passing Gary Payton, Ed Sadowski and maybe Adrian Dantley.

Getting such an impact player cost the Heat plenty. They lost Josh Richardson and a first-round pick and downgraded from Hassan Whiteside to Myles Leonard in the sign-and-trade with the 76ers. Hard-capped due to acquiring Butler in a sign-and-trade, Miami also waived and stretched Ryan Anderson, locking in a $5,214,583 cap hit each of the next three seasons. And the Heat owe Butler $140,790,600 over the next four seasons. That’s a lot for someone who’ll turn 30 before the season and has heavy mileage.

But Butler is a true star who could break Miami from its capped-out mediocrity. Other offseason additions like No. 13 pick Tyler Herro and No. 32 pick KZ Okpala probably aren’t going to do that. The Heat might even impress enough with Butler to land another star in 2021 free agency.

There’s a limit on how much Butler will help. He probably doesn’t lift Miami into the East’s elite. His contract could age poorly.

But for a stuck team, a willingness to embrace the hard-charging Butler is a clear advancement.