2019-20 Previews: Miami Heat

Losses: Hassan Whiteside, Ryan Anderson, Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade.

Additions: Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard, Tyler Herro, KZ Okpala, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn.

Likely Starters
Guard: Goran Dragic
Wing: Jimmy Butler, Justise Winslow (James Johnson instead of Olynyk?)
Big: Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo

Predicted Record: 43–39 | 14th in NBA | 7th in East

You’ve got to decide how you feel about Jimmy Butler. That’s the first thing. It isn’t simple. For example, did you know that Jimmy Butler is eighth among active players in career win shares/48 minutes? He dwarfs guys like Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook. He trails only obvious hall of fame legends (and Anthony Davis, which, I mean, I don’t know). Is Jimmy Butler that great? If he is, then he’s a clear top-10 player smack in the middle of his basketball prime, and Miami is going to be dangerous this season.

On the other hand, is Jimmy Butler that great? Why haven’t his teams been all that good? By the time Jimmy Butler was making all-star teams, the Bulls were well on their way to mediocrity. Jimmy’s tenure on the Timberwolves was a disaster, and it isn’t like that team was devoid of talent. He grates on people. Is he selfish? What does selfish mean? How much does personality matter? How much does fearlessness matter? How the hell are we supposed to answer these questions.

One thing that continually surprises me is that Jimmy isn’t ever exactly the player I expect him to be. He presents himself as a winner in the idiotic, toxic, Kobe Bryant mold. Winning = pain tolerance. Winning = not being afraid. Winning means you get all the glory. Losing is because these young guys, they don’t get it. Then you watch Jimmy play, and he’s unselfish, and he’s playing defense on every damn possession, and he’s doing the little stuff. And then, when everyone actually is scared, and that toxic shit comes in handy, he’s got that too.

This summer, given the multitude of options in front of Jimmy Butler, it felt a little silly when he went to the Heat. The roster is capped-out and depleted. There’s no hope of championship contention here. The narrative was: Jimmy wants to be The Man. Why not go to the Rockets? Why not go back to Philly?

Did you know Jimmy Butler has only played eight seasons? Isn’t that crazy? He was in the same draft as Kyrie, Kawhi, and Kemba. He was in the same draft as Tobias Harris. Jimmy Butler seems ancient compared to those dudes. I think Jimmy still sees himself as up-and-coming. I think he wants as much on his back as he can get.

More than that, I think he wants to be serious. He wants to go play for Riley and Spo. He wants to be in a place where they freak out about whether you are in shape, where they buy in to every stupid cliché of what it takes to win. I think that nonsense is like a religion to Jimmy Butler, and even though I think it’s nonsense, I also get it. Go back and watch that game seven against the Raptors last year. They lost, but that game was pure Jimmy Butler. You know what his stat-line was? 16 points. 5-for-14. He was there at the end, winning the game. It took a miracle shot by a champion to beat him.

It would take a lot of luck for Miami to be good this season. They have, by my count, eight for-sure NBA players, and one of those guys is Dion Waiters. Whether or not Goran Dragic is washed is, at this point, anyone’s guess. They are going to be tough though. It’s going to suck playing against the Miami Heat. They’re big and strong and they all play hard, and they have a good coach, and they’re not going to help you beat them. If they stay healthy, they’re way too low on my list.

Ultimately, if I’m being honest, I don’t believe in Jimmy Butler. I hate his brand of macho bullshit. There’s something about his game that strikes me as smoke-and-mirrors. Is Jimmy Butler that great? Let’s see.

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