As Jimmy Butler leaned over the barricade to get some quick ten seconds of rest before he gets to the free throw line again, we immediately realized that the Miami Heat star just emptied the tank. He logged in 47 minutes of play, put up a triple-double, and guarded the best player of the other team.
But the thing is, Butler has been doing this kind of work for years now. The start of his All-Star years in Chicago came after the healthy Derrick Rose era, paving the way for Butler to rise up the ranks and establish himself as one of the best two-way stars in the league.
Yet, people still fail to put him alongside the ranks of Paul George, Damian Lillard, or even Joel Embiid. To be fair with those names, George just had an MVP-caliber season with the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, and Lillard single-handedly lifted the Portland Trail Blazers to a playoff spot in the bubble.
Here’s a couple of reasons why Butler has just joined the list of the Top 10 current superstars in the NBA.
Package of elite versatility and do-it-all skillset
Butler is also having an unprecedented performance in the playoffs, especially in the Heat’s Finals match-up with the Lakers. He is outduelling LeBron James, arguably the best and most complete player of this era. Butler is Miami’s primary playmaker, shot creator, and defensive ace. What more can you ask from an individual?
Furthermore, Butler has shown to us that he can adjust his offense to any defensive scheme that the opposing team will throw at him. When Butler went off for that 40-point performance in Game 3, the Lakers put a hulking, mobile defender in Anthony Davis on him. He was one assist shy of a triple-double, but it was clear that he didn’t get into his groove in terms of scoring.
But in Game 5, Butler eased up on his attack, became more calculated with his decisions, and had his way in either fishing for a foul or getting closer to the rim. More importantly, he also spent tons of energy guarding LeBron on the other end, and still coming up with the defensive rebounds.
There’s literally nothing you could ask Butler that he can’t do, and only a handful of superstars are as complete as Miami’s main man.
Willingness to lead
Not all talented stars in the league are also great leaders. But Butler, with his confidence coming from total grit and relentlessness, has displayed a kind of leadership that has been perfect for the famous “Heat Culture.” In just his first year in South Beach, Butler already had his imprints all over the place, and it’s not just about being a vocal leader.
Except for that 18-point loss in Game 1, Butler has logged in at least 43 minutes in each of the next four games. He cannot even pace himself as he has to exert tremendous effort on both offense and defense the whole contest.
Butler is already 31 years of age, but there’s no doubt that it will be a few more years before he enters the twilight stage of his career. Until then, people should already view him as a top-tier superstar in the NBA.