Jimmy Butler has a new emphasis on distributing in Miami


The critiques of Jimmy Butler are getting old. Plenty of players and coaches from around the league have praised Butler recently and he has drastically molded his game this season to fit his new team, the Miami Heat. Jimmy Butler has transformed into a pass-first player this season, leading Miami’s roster with 6.1 assists per night.

Since the closing of his time in Chicago, jimmy Butler has yet to be the number one option, but in Miami, he returns to that familiar role as a veteran leader doing what his team needs most. Miami lacked distribution and timely buckets, and Butler has rightfully earned the nickname Jimmy “Buckets”.

This season has been a career-high for Butler in assists per game (6.1) assist percentage (28.4%), nearly 4% greater than his closest season prior, per Cleaning the Glass. Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Meyers Leonard, and Kelly Olynyk can all shoot the ball exceptionally, but most coaches would be hesitant to trust them to create their own looks.

The only reliable playmakers for others on Miami’s roster, outside of Jimmy Butler, are Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic who both are unable to lead an offense full-time. Jimmy Butler has shown an ability to read defenses and rekindle value that is lost from his horrendous shooting this season (24.8% from three, per basketball-reference) by setting his teammates up and relentlessly driving the paint.

There are a mere four players in the entire NBA that attempt more free throws per game than Jimmy Butler (per NBA.com): James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, and Luka Doncic. Each of those players occupy the elite tier of offensive players in the league today and free throws are a major factor in their consistency. Butler also has the least turnover per game of that group by a significant margin with 2.2.

Per Cleaning the Glass, the Miami Heat attempt 9.5 more free throw attempts per 100 possessions and a 2.9 percent lower turnover percentage with Butler on the floor. Those saved possessions and charity stripe attempts allow Miami’s offense to be better with Jimmy Butler on the floor, despite his atrocious shooting this season.

9.1 free throw attempts per showing for Butler paired with an unstoppable motor and motive to attack the rim allows him the defensive attention to find the open shooter as the rotations happen.

Butler has a new focus of his game in Miami out of necessity and his defense has always been his trademark. Passing and getting to the line will age with time and allow Butler to remain an impact player on the offensive end for years to come in his Miami offense.


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