Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler Hints at Which New Player Can Make Rotation

Getty Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler (L) says KZ Okpala reminds him of himself when he was younger.

Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler spoke to the media on December 21 and shared his thought’s on the team’s newest additions going into the 2020-2021 NBA Season. The five-time All-Star appears even more confident about Miami’s roster than last season, “We’re championship caliber,” Butler said.

As for the new players on the team, Butler only had positive things to say, according to 5 Reasons Sports Network. “I’ve seen their will to win, I think that’s the only thing that matters. They’re coming in here, they’re working towards that one common goal to win.”

Butler appears to be particularly impressed with Chikezi “KZ” Okpala, the 21-year-old Stanford alum who was originally picked up by the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft but quickly traded to the Heat. In December 2019, Okpala was assigned to the team’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, where he averaged 11.7 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.4 steals throughout 20 game appearances.

On Monday, Butler revealed his “favorite” part about the 6’8, 215-pound forward. “He cares more about getting a stop than getting a bucket,” Butler said. “What I see in him, is what I was when I was a young guy in the league.”

“He knows that he can compete with the best of them,” Butler continued. “Confidence is key…He’s only gonna continue to get better. He’s gonna be a very great player for us.”

Okpala Put on a Monster Performance During the Heat’s Preseason Game Against Toronto

During the Heat’s final preseason game against the Toronto Raptors, Okpala’s performance made a strong case as to why he should be included in the Heat’s rotation. He scored a team-high 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting along with 6-of-10 from beyond the three-point line, five boards, two assists, one steal, and one block.

“I think I lost myself in [Friday’s] game,” Okpala said afterward. “And that’s why everyone hoops, to lose yourself.” As for what keeps him motivated after not playing any games for the Heat in 2019, “Success is the only option for me,” Okpala said. “So, I’m going to keep working.”

Head coach Erik Spoelstra was quite impressed by Okpala’s preseason performance, and not just because of his ability to score.

“The only thing people probably notice is the six threes and 24 points, but it was the versatility defensively [and] being in the right spots on the weak side,” Spoelstra said. “Those things just kind of created some confidence. He was really playing off the ball, and the ball found him from other actions and guys finding him in the corner. That’s what we often call the karma of the game.”

Spoelstra Said That Okpala was One of the Most Conditioned Players Going Into Camp

Coach Spo noted that Okpala was one of the Top 3 most conditioned players going into camp this season. He said:

He had to learn our system, learn the NBA…get in great shape and then be available day after day, so this has really been a process since the quarantine in May and June when he was really working just to get his body right [and] doing a lot of player development. That’s a credit to his work and consistency. It doesn’t always guarantee the result, but you’re happy for guys when they put in that kind of time, [and] they come in in great shape. I would say he…probably was arguably top three best conditioned going into camp, which was important and much different than his previous camp last year.

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