Former Exec Issues Bold Proclamation on ‘Underrated’ Heat Star Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler Heat-Sixers

Getty Jimmy Butler reacts during a game between the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers.

With their loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday, the Miami Heat are officially headed to the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference. And while they’ll be taking on an Atlanta Hawks team that they beat three times during the regular season, a playoff appearance is anything but assured.

It was an incredible fall for a Heat squad that finished with the East’s best record last season and very nearly secured a trip to the NBA Finals. However, things would have been significantly worse if not for the efforts of Jimmy Butler.

Despite the fact that no meaningful upgrades have been made since the 2021-22 campaign ended, Duncan Robinson’s epic backslide has continued, the defense has fallen apart and no one outside of Tyler Herro has been able to hit a three all year, Miami remained a winner largely on the back of Butler and his sneaky superstar-level output.

Butler has been so good, in fact, that one analyst (and former league exec), The Athletic’s John Hollinger, is endorsing the baller for an All-NBA spot, even as he failed to garner an All-Star nod.

Hollinger: Heat’s Jimmy Butler Should Be Selected Second-Team All-NBA

In a piece breaking down his year-end award votes for the 2022-23 NBA season, Hollinger wrote glowingly of the Heat’s cornerstone piece, making some big proclamations regarding his place in the league hierarchy.

“[Butler is] a no-brainer for second team,” Hollinger opined. “I would posit that Butler is the most underrated player in the league, and it’s an embarrassment that he wasn’t named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.”

Over 64 appearances for the South Beach crew this season, Butler has averaged 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. While those are high-level all-around numbers, Hollinger believes that Butler’s career-best efficiency and the fact that he has boosted his underperforming teammates are what cements his All-NBA case:

Butler has carried a Miami team that basically had only two other guys performing above replacement level to a 42-37 mark through Wednesday, with a career year at the offensive end at age 32. I don’t think people caught on to the jump in efficiency he had this year, shooting a career-best 53.7 percent from the floor — he’d never even been above 50 percent before — and shattering his career high with a 27.6 PER that ranks sixth in the league. As ever, Butler combines that with top-notch wing defense.

Victor Oladipo Returns in Grand Fashion

While the Heat conceded the game against the Wizards (and the No. 6 seed in the East along with it) by benching Butler, Herro and Bam Adebayo, the affair wasn’t a total loss for the club. In particular, former All-Star Victor Oladipo benefited from the short bench, as he was able to get back on the court after having logged three straight DNP-CDs and six over an eight-game stretch.

He made the most of his opportunity, too, scoring a team-high 30 points in 26 minutes as a reserve. Along the way, he nailed seven three-point shots and added four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Whether or not the effort will result in Oladipo getting back into the rotation for postseason play (provided the Heat survive the play-in) remains to be seen. At the least, the veteran has given head coach Erik Spoelstra something to think about.

Last season, Oladipo dropped a 40-point bomb in game No. 82 after having been in and out of the rotation. Spoelstra didn’t use him in any of Miami’s first three playoff games but, from there, he was good for 20-30 or more minutes nightly throughout the club;s extended run.