If you had any doubts about the player that Jimmy Butler was going into the bubble, those doubts should surely be erased. He took a battered Heat team to the sixth game of the NBA Finals against a buzzsaw of a Lakers team. He became the second player in NBA history, after Lebron James in 2016, to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks in the Finals. His performance was commended by many and he certainly left his heart on the court. After failed stints in MIN and Philly following his tenure in Chicago, he seems to have found a perfect fit down in South Beach. Recency bias may have some revisionist historians thinking that the Celtics should have made the Jimmy Butler trade back in 2017 but trust me when I say that would not be the answer.
Jimmy Butler to Celtics Rumors
The Celtics were linked to Jimmy Butler before the 2016 draft, as well as several times since then. It would have cost the Celtics the #3 pick in that year’s draft, which turned out to be Jaylen Brown. The Celtics ultimately passed on Miami’s offer and selected Brown, who has developed into a max player. There were also reports that linked Butler to Boston leading up to the 2017 draft. The Celtics decided to pass amid concerns of how he would fit with Gordon Hayward.
In no way am I arguing that Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown are better players than Jimmy Butler is right now. They aren’t, plain and simple. But for where Brown and Butler are in their career, I would rather have Brown going forward. Brown is signed for the next four seasons for less-than-max money, allowing for the Celtics to pursue a max extension for Jayson Tatum either this offseason or next. Butler, meanwhile, is making over $35 million a year for the next three years, through his age 33 season.
It is impossible to know what the 2020 Celtics would look like had Danny Ainge pulled the trigger on the Jimmy Butler trade back in 2016. What we do know is that Butler has bounced around to his fourth team with a surprise Finals appearance, while Boston’s young core has made the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four years despite consistently having one of the youngest teams in the league. With Brown at age 23 and Tatum at age 22, the Celtics aren’t even close to hitting their ceiling.
After the failed Kyrie Irving experiment, the Celtics seem to be heading in the right direction, coming just two wins away from the NBA Finals. It is okay to be frustrated with the Celtics’ inability to get over that final hump and reach the Finals, but that just shows that fans know what the team is capable. With Tatum blossoming into an All-NBA player and Brown reaching All-Star level play, the Celtics are sure to be title contenders for years to come.
Patience is a virtue, but not one that many Boston fans, including myself, tend to have.
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Photo: (Lyne Sladky – AP Photo)