The NBA Most Valuable Player award generally goes to the best player of the best team of the regular season. Sometimes it’s more a competition in popularity mixed with a beauty contest than about who really is the most respected player on his team. It is simply easier to assess through wins and losses that LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo are valuable to a team that wins a lot. It’s much harder to consider a player extremely valuable when his game is the reason for the team to win 20 of 45 games.
If there was a real reward for the most useful player, maybe we would better call it the Award for the most important player. Had that award existed, Jimmy Butler would have been the favorite to repeat as the winner. There are currently no players in the NBA who mean more to their team than Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat.
Heat is 17-17 this season after Sunday night’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, their sixth straight win. But the team is 13-8 in games played by Jimmy Butler. Since his return from the COVID restriction list, Heat has been a completely different team. She moved from one of the worst defenses in the league, occasionally looking much more like the team that came away with two NBA championship wins last season.
The last 15 games
LeBron James: 26/9/9
Jimmy Butler: 22.9.9
Butler in less minutes. Heat is the top 5 defense against Butler’s return
10-5 record @ 5ReasonsSports
– Ethan J. Skolnick of @ 5ReasonsSports (@EthanJSkolnick) February 27, 2021
Butler averages 20 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists in the game, a stat line that reminds Heat fans of something they only saw during the Big 3 era with LeBron James or at the height of Dwyane Wade’s career. Butler doesn’t just have any season. Butler has an excellent season by the standards of almost any player, in one of the toughest seasons of his career.
It’s clear who the Miami Heat is when Jimmy Butler isn’t on the floor: one of the worst teams in the NBA. If you remove LeBron from the Lakers or Giannis from the Bucks, both teams are still competitive. The Lakers would be led by Anthony Davis – arguably the best player in the NBA league on any given day – and the Bucks would still have Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, two frontier All-Stars.
Bam Adebayo is a Top 20 player, but this time it has been proven that he cannot put the Miami Heat on his back. It’s just not his style. His offensive game is not at that level.
Jimmy Butler is the engine of the Miami Heat. Without him, the Heat poses no threat to beat any team in the Eastern Conference. It’s a threat to the first overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Throughout the middle of the season, Jimmy Butler deserves a good amount of the most valuable player votes. He won’t win the award, but if the title makes sense, he could. No matter what kind of recognition the national media and fans give him, Miami knows he is the undeniable, unanimous MVP of the Heat.
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