The Miami Heat’s approach to depth at power forward took a decidedly unique turn. Then again, maybe that was to be expected, as coach Erik Spoelstra refuses to admit that he even uses a power forward.
As part of the Heat’s rotational remix they had on a three-game winning streak in Sunday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena, Butler played as the de facto backup power forward as part of Spoelstra’s move to greater spacing and shoot with his lineups.
This moved Markieff Morris out of the primary mix and raised questions about what will come next for Caleb Martin in his return from his calf injury.
“I’m comfortable with whatever position, quote, quote, he puts me out there, with the individuals I’m out there with,” Butler said, with Sunday’s game ending a three-game trip , before the Heat return for their last two home games in the regular season. “We just play good basketball, play the right way.”
Whatever the positional name for Butler’s secondary role, Spoelstra refuses to attach a label after starting on small forward with Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker.
“It’s really hard for me to have that conversation with these outdated labels because I do not see the game that way,” Spoelstra said for the second time since reworking his rotation. “We do not design our game like that. It’s really positionless.
“And I know that whole term has become such a cliché. Jimmy guarded one to four throughout the season. And his attacking role has not changed at all with some of these adjustments in the rotation. “
For Spoelstra, it is about getting the most productive five-man units together, and from there leaving it to the players to sort out the approach.
“So I think it’s a bit 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, this led to Butler returning to play as the nominal power forward alongside Dewayne Dedmon with the second unit, surrounded by shooters, such as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and space.
“If I have to sum it up, the last 10 days, that’s what we’re really working on,” said Spoelstra. “And then, when it comes to player A, it’s a little different if it’s player B, player C, player D. And all these little nuances differ with your spacing and your actions and all the player movement. And that is where we have tried to improve in that area. ”
Spoelstra said a chameleon-like approach to the game made the remix seamless for the skills of Butler, who has recently even improved his 3-point game, including 2 of 3 from outside the arc in Saturday night’s win of 127-109 over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center, when Butler finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“Jimmy’s versatility is unique at dinner, due to his size, his skill level, his athleticism and the fact that you can play him anywhere on the floor,” said Spoelstra. “What we are trying to do is maximize it as much as possible, without naming him at a position.”
Like Spoelstra, Butler said to put aside the positional names, and even remarked that he still took the defensive order against DeMar DeRozan, wing of the Bulls.
“I just hope so,” he said.
And then, a smile, as Butler remarked how his latest success from outside made him especially part of the remixed solution.
“I’m spacer,” he said. “I shoot tries.”