That summer saw Butler touch down in Miami via Philadelphia in a
wide-ranging, four-team deal. (Whiteside didn't stick around for
the party and was sent away to Portland). Since then, while Butler
has risen to elite player consideration, his three-point shot has
(Some cite it as a knock, but I would say his productivity in
Miami in spite of that is a testament to how good he actually is as
a two-way player, so let's proceed.)
On exactly 2.0 threes per game, Butler’s shot 24.2% through 166
regular-season games with the Heat since the start of the 2019-20
campaign. With the Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota
Timberwolves, his three-point percentage hovered between 33.7% and
35.5% wth each franchise.
And since becoming an everyday starter in the 2013-14 season —
when he first attempted at least 2.0 threes per contest — the only
other time he’s shot worse than 31% from deep was that same year,
where he hit just 28.3% of his triples. The jump to 37.8% from
distance in 2014-15 was a significant reason why he won Most
Improved Player thereafter. (We’ll get to the playoffs
This season, Butler had been reaching career-lows until
recently. Before his sixth All-Star game appearance, he had been
shooting 19.2% from three on 2.0 attempts per game. One especially
bad stretch saw Butler go 1-of-17 (5.9%) between Feb. 1 and the
(It should also be known that the Heat swingman was still
putting up 20.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while
hitting 95.1% of his 7.6 free throws per game and playing
All-NBA-level defense, as Miami went 6-2 in mostly road games.)
But since the All-Star Break, we’ve seen Butler add a relatively
reliable three-pointer, the best we’ve seen from him beyond the arc
since the Heat’s run to the 2020 NBA Finals. Since the break,
Butler’s hitting 33.3% of his shots from deep. It's slightly below
league average and his own career average, but respectable enough
given that he’s never needed to be a knockdown shooter to replicate
elite two-way production.
Narrowing it down to March 5 and on — a 12-game sample size —
Butler's made 11-of-30 threes, or 36.7%. In his last seven games?
He’s hit 10-of-21 (45.5%), including four games of hitting at least
two made threes while never attempting more than five such shots,
so he’s being responsible.
Amid all this, Butler has still been hovering around his
whole-season averages of 21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists and
1.7 steals per game while shooting 48.0% from the field and a
career-best 87.1% on 7.9 free throws per contest. You also need to
account for his consistent All-Defensive-Team-worthy display on the
He’s even wearing a shooting sleeve!
Jimmy Butler is 8 of 12 on catch and shoot
threes over the last two weeks
The last stretch of success like this for Butler came at the
Bubble. The entire 2020 playoffs saw Butler hit 34.9% of his
threes, nailing 15-of-43 long-range attempts. In Miami's four-game
sweep over the Indiana Pacers, a five-game gentleman's sweep over
the Milwaukee Bucks and the Eastern Conference opener against the
Boston Celtics — a 10-game sample size — Butler enjoyed a 10-of-19
stretch from three (52.4%) before he missed his next nine triples
in the series. (By the way, Butler went 4-of-13 in the NBA Finals
for a 30.8% clip, in case you’re wondering).
Next, let’s go to the 2018-19 season, the year Butler was
famously dealt from Minnesota to Philadelphia. In the 13 games
before the trade, Butler hit 37.8% of his threes, including
downtown displays of 6-of-7 and 5-of-8 against the Los Angeles
Lakers, and 4-of-7 against the Toronto Raptors.
He also had a strong three-point shooting start in Philly; from
his Sixers debut on Nov. 14 and Jan. 17 — a 27-game sample size —
Butler hit 40.3% of his 2.9 perimeter attempts per contest. He then
went 1-of-6 in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 19,
and subsequently missed three games with a sprained wrist.
After returning from the wrist injury on Jan. 29, Butler hit only
27.7% of his triple tries on 2.4 attempts per contest. It’s worth
noting that in the first three games upon that January return, he
went 1-of-2, 0-of-6 and 4-of-8, respectively.
In the 2019 postseason — despite Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and
Tobias Harris all flopping in the famous Raptors
series that came down to a bounce — Butler dragged the Sixers
to a Game 7 in the East semifinals. In the playoffs, he averaged
19.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists, and produced a
22.0/7.0/5.6 line against the Raptors in particular; and still,
Butler shot just 26.7% from distance across both series — closer to
his Miami numbers.
Butler is actually a career 34.6% three-point shooter from deep
across 80 playoff games. He was at 37.3% in his first 43 postseason
contests, all of which preceded his time with both the Sixers and
Generally, since becoming an All-Star in 2013-14, he’s been a
quality playoff performer outside of a first-round series with the
Wolves vs. the Houston Rockets in 2017-18 (though he had just
returned from meniscus surgery, and at the time he injured his
the Wolves were fourth in the Western Conference).
And then, last season, all final four teams left from the Bubble
— the Heat, Lakers, Celtics and Denver Nuggets — all flamed out in
the playoffs. (Maybe having only seven weeks between the
NBA Finals and training camp, or nine in the case of the Celtics
and Nuggets, had something to do with it.)
So should Butler need to be Allan Houston, Jason Kapono, Anthony
Morrow or, hell, Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro from three? Nah.
But if he’s making, say, 30-to-33%, it’s a potential game-changer
for the Heat amid this championship chase.
Teams will live with Butler’s threes, but if he makes them pay
enough to where they have to think about guarding him a half-step
closer, that slight of a threat will provide lanes to find
teammates open for corner threes via drive-and-kicks. It could also
open things up for Butler himself as a driver who provides rim
pressure, and can do so with more space. In addition, it helps Bam
Adebayo, who theoretically would have more room to operate around
the rim — as a screen-and-roller, in the mid-range area, as an
off-ball screener, or as whatever you want (except a three-point
shooter; one day, maybe).
Butler's ability to drill threes is a good tool to have. It's
not one you should need to rely on, but a sneaky weapon that could
spark other productive offensive actions to defensive reactions as
a result, so long as the threat of him actually hitting one or two
is legitimately there.
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