Stars Whine About Fouls But Heat’s Butler Thrives: ‘People Actually Foul Me’

Jimmy Butler, Heat

Getty Jimmy Butler, Heat

All around the NBA, players who are used to getting soft touch-foul calls from refs—particularly the star players (ahem, James Harden)—have been struggling to keep up their scoring pace because referees have been instructed to make it a point of emphasis not to call fouls in which the offensive player initiates contact.

Well, there is one star player who has seen his numbers all but unaffected by the new rules: Heat wing Jimmy Butler. In fact, Butler’s stats are on the rise this season, as he is averaging a career-high 25.0 points to go with 5.6 assists and 6.9 rebounds. Butler is shooting 51.3%, which is also a career high.

Most impressive, though, is what Butler is doing at the free-throw line. After averaging 8.0 attempts per game last year, and 6.3 for his career, Butler is now taking 9.0 free throws per game, and knocking down 88.9 of them per game. He leads the NBA in attempts and makes.

Explaining his free-throw dominance lately, Butler said no one should be surprised.

“I don’t think that I flop,” he said, per the Sun-Sentinel. “People actually foul me and if you don’t call it, you don’t call it. I’ll be alright. I’ll just go down there and get a stop, get a steal and get into the open court to make up for it. But if they don’t call a foul, I won’t complain. I know that they miss some calls or they’re looking to not call them. That’s fine. It’s just part of it.”

Spoelstra: ‘Jimmy Has Never Been a Flopper’

Across the NBA, free-throws are down. Teams took an average of 21.8 foul shots per game last season, many of which could be generated by having an offensive player lean into a defender as part of his shooting motion. That’s been taken away and the NBA average for foul shots has gone down to 19.9, a drop of nearly 10%.

It is remarkable, then, that Butler’s foul shots are up by 12.5%.

Coach Erik Spoelstra says that is because Butler is not afraid to attack the rim and draw contact the hard way. According to, Butler gets 2.9 free throws per game off of drives, which is fourth in the league.

Erik Spoelstra postgame interview after Miami Heat blowout loss to Dallas Mavericks2021-05-05T03:37:47Z

“Jimmy has never been a flopper,” Spoelstra said. “He has never been a guy that’s trying to trick the officials. He’s rugged. He’s physical. But he has a great knack for going through contact. It’s not as if those aren’t earned. Those are mini car wrecks when he’s drawing fouls and going to the line.

Butler Told His Agent to ‘Shut Up’ About Rules

If you’re surprised that the Heat star has not seen a drop-off in his free-throw efficiency, then you were not paying attention to Butler’s agent in the preseason. Back on October 15, Bernie Lee, Butler’s agent, tweeted that he had been warning Butler during the offseason about the new rules.

“I’ve spent all summer telling JB abt the rule changes and how I thought they would effect him (sic),” Lee tweeted. “He’s told me to shut up every time … (when he leaves I start talking again) 1st game of regular mins, he shoots 11 FT’s in a half.. talent is an amazing thing.”


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