The Miami Heat’s approach to depth at the forefront has taken a decidedly unique twist. Then again, perhaps that was to be expected, given that coach Erik Spoelstra refuses to acknowledge that he even uses a power forward.
As part of the Heat’s rotational remix that led them to a three-game winning streak heading into Sunday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena, Butler played as a de facto backup forward in the part of Spoelstra’s move to greater spacing and shooting with his lineups.
It knocked Markieff Morris out of the main mix and raised questions about what’s next for Caleb Martin when he returns from his calf injury.
“I’m comfortable with any position, in quotes, without quotes, he puts me out there, with the individuals I’m out there with,” Butler said, Sunday’s game ending a three-game trip, before the Heat return for their final two home games of the regular season. “We just play good basketball, play the right way.”
Regardless of the position designation for Butler’s supporting role, after opening up to small forward alongside Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker, Spoelstra refuses to attach a label.
“It’s really hard for me to have this conversation with these antiquated labels, because I don’t see the game that way,” Spoelstra said for the second time since reworking his rotation. “We don’t design our game that way. It’s really positionless.
“And I know that whole term has become such a cliché. Jimmy kept a four through the season. And his attacking role hasn’t changed at all with some of these rotation adjustments.
For Spoelstra, it’s all about rounding up the most productive five-man units, leaving it up to the players from there to sort out the approach.
“So I think it’s kind of conventional to say, ‘OK, he’s a four or whatever,'” Spoelstra said. “But I think it’s more like, where is the ball going and what is our spacing? That would be it.”
By moving Max Strus into the starting lineup and removing Butler earlier in games than the previous approach, Butler returned to play as a nominal forward alongside Dewayne Dedmon with the second unit, surrounded by shooters, such as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. , and space.
“If I had to sum it up, the last 10 days is what we’ve really been working on,” Spoelstra said. “And then when it goes to player A it’s a little bit different when it’s player B, player C, player D. And all those little nuances are different with your spacing and your actions and all the movement of the player. And that’s where we tried to improve in that area.
Spoelstra said a chameleon-like approach to the game made the remix transparent for the skills of Butler, who recently stepped up his 3-point play, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc in the 127-109 victory of Saturday night on the Chicago Bulls at the United Center, when Butler closed with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“Jimmy’s versatility is unique, due to his height, skill level, athleticism and the fact that you can play him anywhere on the court,” Spoelstra said. “What we’re trying to do is maximize that as much as possible, without tagging it to a position.”
Like Spoelstra, Butler said to set aside positional designations, even noting that when picked as a power forward, he always took the defensive mission against Bulls winger DeMar DeRozan.
“I just hoop,” he said.
And then, a smile, as Butler noted how his latest outside hit particularly made him part of the remixed fix.
“I’m a spacer,” he said. “I shoot three.”