The Miami Heat are off to a great start this season and will take a 5-1 record into their match against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. Pat Riley was keen on everyone in the organization just getting some rest after what was a strenuous season filled with injury issues and COVID-related absences. But the Heat president got right back to work as soon the free agency clock began ticking.
The Heat look primed to be a major threat in the Eastern conference, having already collected wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. They’re led by none other than Jimmy Butler, who is an early candidate for MVP after six games.
Butler, one of the most tough-nosed players in the NBA, wasn’t particularly aggressive over the course of his first two seasons with the Heat but there are already signs he will be going all out this season. The forward didn’t take on the brunt of the shots after he joined the team in 2019/20, with Kendrick Nunn leading the team in shot attempts. His 13.1 attempts matched what Dwyane Wade shot as a rookie in 2003/04, which was really no surprise given Erik Spoelstra’s willingness to have the scoring shared as long as the efforts translated into wins.
Things were expected to play out in a similar fashion, especially after the team signed Kyle Lowry this year. They also locked sharpshooter Duncan Robinson in for five years while it was known that Tyler Herro would be on a mission to have a bounce-back season after a disappointing second year in the league. The 19-year-old has been incredible so far, averaging 22 points off the bench for Miami.
Bam Adebayo is considered to be the Heat’s future franchise player and is the second option for Spoelstra. The 2020 All-Star is averaging a career-high 20.6 points so this season.
The Heat is laden with scoring options and there will be even more competition when Victor Oladipo returns. In spite of that, Butler is thriving as the leading man, averaging 17 shot attempts a game, a career-high. He’s also scoring 25.3 points in a contest, also a high.
The NBA introduced rule changes this season and lots of stars are struggling as a result, James Harden most notably, yet Butler has had no trouble getting to the line and his 7.7 free throw attempts per game have set him as the first among non-post players and fourth in the NBA.
Butler is actually getting to the line more frequently than ever before. He is shooting a career-high 7.3 attempts in the restricted area and he’s tied with Russell Westbrook in that department. He’d never even gotten to six shots from there prior to this campaign.
Of course, it’s still early days but Jimmy is unlikely to slow down, especially given that he’s the embodiment of Heat culture. The Heat have always been a gritty side that plays every game like they’re in the playoffs and the former Marquette star has shown he can perform remarkably in the postseason. He registered a 40-point game in the finals last year and is no stranger to high-volume scoring.
Miami has been outscoring their opposition by 16.5 points per 100 possessions so far this season. No opponent has scored more than 103 points against them and their only loss came when Lowry missed a game due to an ankle injury. The former Toronto Raptors point guard’s distribution has proven key and the Heat is pretty fluid without him. They’ve been the most impressive team over their first six games and NBA sportsbooks have them as the third favorite to win the Eastern Conference.
Butler’s MVP odds are still +7500, which makes it a great value at the moment. The forward is playing some of the best basketball of his career at 32 and he’s now No.1 on Basketball Reference’s MVP Tracker. Bam Adebayo is also in the top 10 at No.6.
There are a few reasons the Heat star is a value option for your MVP bets. Butler has never suffered a serious injury over the span of his NBA career, though he has missed games here and there due to niggling issues. No MVP has missed more than 11 games in a season this century. Availability is one of the biggest factors.
Certainly, winning is the biggest factor. Regular season MVPs have won at least 61 games and only two of them didn’t play for a top seed. The Heat is on track to be a top seed in the East. The Bucks have an injury-depleted roster and have gotten off to a bad start. The Nets still don’t have Kyrie Irving while the Ben Simmons drama in Philadelphia definitely isn’t brightening prospects for the 76ers.
Jimmy’s teammates also won’t be stealing the spotlight. While the Heat has a formidable roster, there’s no one on there who has made an All-NBA first team. As long as things continue in the current trajectory, Butler will be a legitimate candidate for basketball’s biggest personal accolade.