Houston Rockets vs Miami Heat game preview - December 15

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v Miami Heat
Houston Rockets v Miami Heat / Eric Espada/GettyImages
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Houston Rockets vs Miami Heat: Player to watch

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the player to watch on the Heat is Jimmy Butler. I’ve long felt that Butler is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Everyone knows he’s good, but I get the sense people don’t truly appreciate what a two-way force he is. And I have a theory as to why, and it aligns with what makes him so special. 

Jimmy Butler’s secret to being the most underrated offensive engine in the NBA is his next-level decision-making. Butler is one of the league’s most efficient scorers by getting to the rim, hunting free throws, and limiting his 3-point attempts. He simply doesn’t take shots he cannot make, which eats into his raw points totals but guarantees he makes his shots count from an efficiency standpoint. 

The next area where Butler is criminally underrated is his passing. While he doesn’t rack up league-leading assist totals, he has averaged between 5.5 and 7.0 assists per game since coming to the Heat. His solid playmaking is only enhanced by his incredible ability to limit turnovers. In 185 games with the Heat, he has averaged 2.1 turnovers per game and is at 1.9 this season. 

To illustrate just how rare Butler’s combination of skills really is, there is only one other player, Jalen Brunson, who is averaging over 20 points and 5.0 assists per game and under 2.2 turnovers. And Brunson is doing it on an effective field goal percentage of 51%, compared to Butler’s 55.1%. I believe that Butler's crime is he is never near the top of the leaderboard in any particular category, but his overall package is tremendous.

Jimmy Butler is a special player, and any chance you get to watch him should be savored. He’s one of the most underrated great offensive players in the league and is an absolute menace on defense. There’s a reason the Heat’s offense averages 117.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the court and only 104.8 when he sits. He is one of the 15 best players in the league and has been for some time.