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Why Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat are Built for the Playoffs

Harry Murphy

Jimmy Butler after setting a Miami Heat franchise record with 56 points.

When the Miami Heat went up 2-1 on the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of this year's NBA Playoffs, many wrote them off by using the excuse of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury. However, when Giannis returned from injury in games four and five, Jimmy Butler scored 56 and 42 points respectively. The Jimmy Butler led Heat have been notorious playoff risers. They made the finals in 2020, the conference finals in 2022, and once again find themselves up 1-0 in the conference finals in 2023 as the eighth seed. The Heat are a team built for the NBA playoffs.

The NBA is a star driven league, and the Miami Heat have their superstar in Jimmy Butler. In this year's playoffs, Butler has averaged an efficient 32 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds, a wild increase from his 22 points per game in the regular season. This is nothing new for Jimmy; for example, in the 2020 season, Butler averaged 19 points per game and 26 in the finals. Deciphering why Jimmy Butler may be the best playoff riser in the league is quite simple. Butler’s play style is the reason he reaches such heights in the playoffs. Butler is a tough shot maker and thrives in the mid range, essential for the notoriously physical basketball of the NBA playoffs.

Not only do the Heat have a generational playoff riser in Jimmy Butler, but they also have a roster constructed perfectly around him. Bam Adebayo is a multiple time all-star center who is also a perennial all-defense candidate. He is a pretty standard pick and roll big man on offense, but where he truly shines is on the defensive end of the ball. He is shockingly nimble for someone who’s 6’9 and can defend both on the perimeter and in the paint at an elite level. Their point guard is aging star Kyle Lowry who has transformed his game. He used to be a physical point guard who leveraged his strength to get to his spots, but since losing a step athletically, he has become more cerebral. He is consistently top of the league in charges drawn and is nifty in drawing fouls on the offensive end of the court. Finally, they surrounded their core three with a vast array of spot up shooters in Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, Max Strus, and Duncan Robinson. Thus, they always have two elite shooters on the floor to make up for Jimmy and Bam’s lack of three point ability.

The final piece of the puzzle is legendary coach Eric Spoelstra. He is a multiple time NBA champion and coach of the year winner, and is not slowing down any time soon. The one flaw in the roster seems to be defense outside their big three, but Eric Spoelstra makes up for it. They often play in a zone to make up for their lackluster perimeter defensive talent. They generally have two players running around the perimeter of the three point line, two players on the low block, and one player protecting the paint. A common zone, but it works so well because the players have relentless effort no matter what. Their legs are always fresh because of all their ability to rotate players on and off of the court without fear of bench performance.

It is hard to judge this Miami Heat team by their regular season performance, as they have a roster built for the playoffs. They have been the underdog in both series they have won so far and are up against the heavily favored Boston Celtics in the conference finals. Don’t be surprised if Jimmy Butler leaves the 2023 playoffs as an NBA champion.

Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to the conclusion of the Celtics-Heat series.


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