The Miami Heat picked up an ugly win over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night, defending their home floor in an 84-76 slugfest. The win came despite a ghastly shooting night from Jimmy Butler, who had eight points and hit only two of his 10 attempts from the field. Scoring 84 points on a night where your best player can’t find a bucket is normally a recipe for disaster, but for the surprising Heat, they were able to pick up a victory.
Part of this was because Butler found other ways to impact the game — he hauled in 12 rebounds, doled out seven assists, and recorded two steals. It’s something he’s become quite good at, to the point that Miami is actually 11-2 when Butler makes five or fewer shots from the field this year.
Following the win, Erik Spoelstra was asked about this, and he pointed to Butler’s ability to fill in gaps when his shot isn’t falling as evidence that he’s worthy of a max contract, something that isn’t necessarily the case for every player who gets a big-money deal.
"It's not about stats. … It's not about whatever 2K numbers you can get."
Erik Spoelstra explains his definition of a max player, and why Jimmy Butler is one of them 📋 pic.twitter.com/Y006UjsVZk
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 3, 2020
“That’s what young players should learn coming into the league of what a max player actually means,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not about stats, it’s not about that final number on the box score, it’s not about whatever 2K numbers you can get. It’s not. It’s about how your team functions and are you winning because of a player. And there is no debate about this: He’s having an incredible impact on our winning, on our bottom line, and that’s why we chased him so hard as a max player.”
It’s high and deserved praise for Butler, whose NBA career has been defined by his ability to impact games in a number of different ways. Whether he’s enough to get the Heat to a championship level will be determined in the coming months, but it’s probably fair to say that he’s playing a major role in getting them to that point after a few years in the NBA’s wilderness.