The Miami Heat are on a three-game winning streak for the first time this season, and Jimmy Butler is the big reason behind it. Butler was out due to COVID-19 for two weeks during January, but returned for his sixth game last night, in which he put up 26 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists.
Butler has been a huge contributor for Miami this season and when he has played, the most consistent player for the team. The 31-year-old forward has shown why he’s a force to be reckoned with, even after losing more than 12 pounds after his battle with COVID-19.
However, there are some areas within Jimmy Butler’s game where he has struggled. Let’s take a deep look into Butler’s season and see what his next step as a player will be for Miami to have a great chance at a contending.
Jimmy Butler’s numbers since returning from his COVID-19 absence
Since returning from COVID-19, Jimmy Butler has been on a tear, while sometimes being the only way for the Miami Heat to stay afloat during a game. Butler has averaged 21.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 1.7 steals while shooting 43.8% from the floor in his six games back.
The Heat have gone 4-2 since Butler has returned, which is not a coincidence. There are still issues on this team that has been made obvious, but Butler being held out for those two weeks was a huge issue that cannot be talked about enough when it comes to this team.
The plus/minus of a player is normally not that important when it comes to evaluating a player, but Tuesday night Butler had a plus 25 in a game where they won by two points. That statistic actually represents what Butler has meant to this team since returning.
Butler’s offensive and defensive ratings have been better than every single player on the team. He has a team-high 112.2 offensive rating and 104.0 defensive rating. The second-leading players on the Heat for their respective ratings are Goran Dragic (111.6) and Avery Bradley (106.6). Coincidentally, both of them are out with injuries right now.
To put Jimmy Butler’s defensive rating in perspective, he has the fourth-highest defensive rating of players that are playing 30+ minutes per game. LeBron James (101.6), Rudy Gobert (102.1), and Tobias Harris (103.8) are the players ahead of him.
Jimmy Butler’s jump shot has been his weakness
Jimmy Butler has been really good for the Miami Heat, but there are some issues when it comes to his game. Butler’s jump shot from 16 feet to the 3-point line has taken a big dip since he joined the team during the 2019 offseason.
Butler shot at least 32.0% from 16 feet to the 3-point arc from 2011-2018 and hit his peak at around 38.5% during the 2016 season. His efficiency took a huge hit during the 2020 season when it dropped to 27.8%. Butler now is shooting 25.0% from that distance during the 2021 season.
His shot selection has also changed significantly since he came to Miami, which is a good thing since he has struggled shooting. Butler went from shooting 14.8% of his shots from 16 feet to the 3-point range in his final season before going there, to 8.5% this season.
Because of this change, Butler went from shooting 16.7% of his shots from 3-10 feet to a whopping 42.3% this season. If you add that percentage to his percentage of shots from 0-3 feet (25.4%), it means that 67.7% of Butler’s shots are coming from within 10 feet this season.
This would be a career-high for Butler and it shows why the Heat need a second consistent scorer next to him. Adebayo has been the leading scorer this season with 20.1 points per game, but it would be very good for Miami to have another guard or forward that can take over a game offensively.
Victor Oladipo remains the best option, in my opinion, to put next to Butler this season. Oladipo has shot in the mid-30% range from the beyond the arc throughout his career but has taken a dip to under 30.0% this season. If Oladipo can fix that shot, he would be a great second scoring option for Miami.
What is Jimmy Butler’s next step of improvement this season?
Jimmy Butler’s jump shot is the clear next step for him when it comes to improving his play this season. Butler has a 55.6% true shooting percentage this season, which would be his worst since the 2014 season when it was 52.2%. He needs to be better than that if they keep this team the same.
One example of this was in their loss against the Charlotte Hornets. With the game tied at 113 points, Butler decided to pull up from the downtown, where he is shooting 6.3% from this season. He inevitably missed the shot and they lost in overtime. Instead of using his strengths, he used his biggest weakness.
One thing that Butler has been noted to do in his time with the Heat is settling for mid-range or 3-point shots in clutch time situations. It’s okay that Butler makes these decisions to shoot the ball, but if he can’t do it at an efficient rate, he should be focused on getting to the basket in these situations.
The good news is, Butler has shown the capability to shoot the trey ball in the past. During the 2016-17 campaign in Chicago, he hoisted a career-high 248 attempts from deep and connected at a proficient 36.7% clip. It remains to be seen whether that works its way back into his arsenal, but first, Butler will likely need to regain his touch inside the arc.
A question that fans have been asking is whether the Heat should have to rely on Jimmy Butler this much at the beginning of the season and that’s a reasonable question to ask since they have had to rely on him so much. Sometimes, your best player has to be the person to put the team on their back during rough times.
Miami was starting to fall in the standings and somebody on the team needed to right the ship. Butler has been the offensive and defensive anchor for the team and that could be an issue going down the stretch, so it would be nice to acquire another player who can help.
Jimmy Butler should be the guy moving forward either way and there are many scenarios in which he can improve before the playoffs. If Butler wants to fulfill his promise of being back in the NBA Finals, he’ll need to take his weaknesses and make them better before it starts to count.