After a 39-win season and without much upside or a path to make a splash by signing a big free agent, the Miami Heat elected to go all in on Jimmy Butler via a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. In some ways, that was likely an easy decision for Pat Riley and company, as Butler immediately becomes the centerpiece of a projected playoff team. Even though it cost the franchise a really good player in Josh Richardson, Miami is in a better position on the floor for 2019-20 than they would have been without Butler in the mix and, well, that is a significant factor.
However, there is some uncertainty as to how things might go in Miami during year one of the Butler era and, with that in mind, using Butler’s recent history is a good way to project the future. Of course, the NBA isn’t always linear but, since Butler made the leap to legitimate stardom with the 2014-15 season, he has been an integral part of five playoff-level teams, with none of the five able to really break through with top-tier success.
In this space, we’ll take a look at the rosters that Butler was playing alongside in previous stops, all with an eye toward what things might look like in 2019-20.
2014-15 Chicago Bulls — Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks
As noted above, Butler made his real leap during the 2014-15 season, leading the Bulls in scoring at 20 points per game. Still, there was real talent around him, with Rose appearing for 51 games and Gasol generating 19 points and 12 rebounds per night over the course of 78 games. All told, Tom Thibodeau led this group to 50 wins and it was the best performance by Chicago during Butler’s overall prime.
2015-16 Chicago Bulls — Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott
A similar cast netted a far worse result. The Bulls missed the playoffs in 2015-16, even with 66 games from Rose. To be fair, Noah was falling off at this point, appearing in only 29 games, and that hurt Chicago’s defense quite a bit.