While he’s not the official team captain, Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler is undoubtedly the de-facto leader of the Miami Heat. The six-time All-Star’s words don’t just resonate with his Heat teammates, but with NBA stars across the league.
Amid the numerous offseason trade reports, one of the biggest factors in deciding whether or not a player would be a fit is whether he complements Butler’s style of play and personality.
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So, when The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on the contract negotiations between Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, June 10, noting how “an impasse currently exists among the parties that clears the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open marketplace,” Butler’s previous comments regarding Irving resurfaced and went viral.
Back in February 2017, during an appearance on ESPN’s First Take, Butler, who was playing for the Chicago Bulls at the time, was asked if he had the choice, of who he would pick to play with, and he went with the then-Cleveland Cavaliers star. The old clip racked up tens of thousands of views on Monday.
“I’d probably have to go with my favorite player who is not myself, and that’s Kyrie [Irving]. I love Kyrie’s game, man. And he’s a really good dude,” said Butler.
Irving has until June 29 to decide on his $36.9 million player option for the 2022-23 season. Last month, NBC Sports analyst Chase Hughes named the Heat as one of the “Top 5 Best Fits” for Irving.
“The Heat have a top-5 defense and the 10th-ranked offense, but as we’ve seen in the playoffs, could use a dynamic scorer who can create for himself like Irving,” Hughes wrote. “Whether he could meld with their system and culture is a fair question, but he seems like the perfect player to get them over the top and combat the suffocating defenses of the top teams in the East.”
Because Irving comes with obvious baggage, there’s understandable doubts as to whether the 30-year-old guard could fall in line with Heat culture.
However, if Butler, who famously “hates everybody” as Warriors star Draymond Green affectionately said of the 32-year-old wing during the playoffs, says Irving is a “good dude,” it indicates the Heat star believes he’d make a great fit on his team. Two were teammates, along with Heat guard Kyle Lowry, when the USA Men’s Basketball team won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
During his limited playing time this past year, he appeared in just 29 regular season games, Irving averaged 27.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game.
Irving Is a Fan of Bam Adebayo
The other most important player on the Heat’s roster is center Bam Adebayo and based on previous interactions between him and Irving, the two appear to have a strong respect for one another.
During the Heat’s 128-124 loss to the Nets on January 23, Butler was out due to health and safety protocols, and Adebayo stepped up to finish with a career-high 41 points. The fourth quarter was a duel between Adebayo and Irving, as Adebayo had 12 points in the final period while Irving netted 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
After the game, Irving said, “I mean it was about time Bam had 40 in terms of getting a lot of those moves that he’s been working on in the offseason. I’ve known Bam since he was 15… 16 years old, so just watching him grow since high school, be able to take over at this point for a kinda undermanned Miami team is good to see.
“I’m obviously sure he would’ve liked to see this game be a win, in terms of having that, but ya know for me, I’m nothing of a supporter of Bam. And I’m glad he got to shoot well and we got the win.”
The Heat Would Have to Give Up a Lot to Nab Irving
While possible trade scenarios involving the former first overall pick from the 2011 NBA Draft and the Heat have been circling since October of last year, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons suggested a hypothetical trade involving the seven-time All-Star and the Heat on June 5.
“How about Lowry and Duncan Robinson for Kyrie and Joe Harris,” Simmons said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “Kyrie in Heat culture? The sky is the limit… I think Spo [Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra] would say I’m in,” Simmons added with a laugh. “He’ll say, ‘We made it work for Jimmy. Let’s just get crazier.'”
However, one thing that won’t work for Butler is trading away Lowry, his best friend, and godfather to his only daughter. The Heat gave up a lot to acquire Lowry in a sign-and-trade last season, and while his performance faltered during the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine Miami giving him up after one season.
If Lowry’s off the table, as well as Adebayo, it’s hard to imagine a trade scenario that works out financially for the Heat.