Scan Jimmy Butler’s career playoff position analysis at BasketballReference and the breakdown will show, including this year, that Butler has not played a single minute of point guard in the postseason since 2012 as a Chicago Bulls rookie.
Ask Erik Spoelstra about Butler as a point guard and he’ll point to this entire maiden-voyage season for Butler with the Miami Heat.
“Well, he’s been effectively our point guard all year long,” Spoelstra said ahead of Saturday night’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.
Although Kendrick Nunn had been cast as the Heat starting point guard during the regular season before giving way to Goran Dragic in the opening lineup in the playoffs, Spoelstra said Butler long has been a de facto floor leader.
“When Goran is coming off the bench with that starting unit, Jimmy had been our point guard or point forward or point two,” Spoelstra said.
Spoelstra then reverted to his position-less soliloquy. According to BasketballReference, Butler spent 53-percent of his minutes during the regular season at small forward, 46 percent at power forward and one percent at center.
To Spoelstra, then as in now, Butler simply led, no matter the designation.
“None of the positions really matter anymore,” Spoelstra said. "The ball is going to be in his hands one way or another, or if it’s not in his hands, it’s going to be some kind of action with Goran.
“We’re not giving up any trade secrets. We know that and they know that. Your guys have to make plays.”
In terms of playoff usage rate — the percentage of a team’s plays a player is involved with while on the floor — Butler went into Saturday night second to Dragic on the Heat, 24.3 to 26.3.
But in terms of overall rank this postseason, Dragic went into the weekend 20th in the league in usage rate, with Butler 30th, a facet of the Heat’s equal-opportunity approach under Spoelstra that also showcases Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro.
“I just think it’s the way that we work on that every day in practice and we’ve been working on it all year long,” Butler said. "We got comfortable with Goran having it, with Bam having it, T-Herro having it, myself.
“I think we are all comfortable in that position, and we like whatever we get out of that.”
So if Dragic, career point guard, is cast as something otherwise at times, so be it, Butler said.
“I’m glad that he’s on my team. He’s so smart, doesn’t care about stats,” Butler said. “He just wants to win, and I think that everybody overlooks that. He’s huge and he has been all year, and making sure that everybody is in the right place, everybody is comfortable, and everybody has the utmost confidence that they can play with on the floor and he’s our leader.”
Dragic said it’s not as much who has the ball as knowing where the ball needs to go next.
“The ball is going from one guy to another,” he said, “and everybody feels involved. And I think that’s our strength.”
No, there are not many rookies left, but Herro went into the weekend standing above all in the postseason.
Among NBA rookie playoff leaders, Herro, the No. 13 pick in the 2019 NBA draft out of Kentucky, went into Saturday night’s game with the top scoring average (14.1), top assist average (4.0), top minutes average (33.0), second-best free-throw percentage (.867), third-best rebound average (5.8) and field-goal percentage (.413), fifth-best steals average (0.36) and 3-point percentage (.368).
“He’s shown a level of poise that’s beyond his years,” Heat guard Duncan Robinson said.
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