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Here’s Why a Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook Pairing Would Work in Miami
- Updated: July 11, 2019
In the wake of Paul George’s stunning trade to the Los Angeles Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and five first-round draft picks, it looks like Russell Westbrook could be on the move.
The two-time scoring champ, 2016-17 NBA regular season MVP and two-time assists leader has reportedly discussed his future with Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, and it looks like both have agreed that a trade is the best option for both parties.
Why do the Heat make so much sense? And why does Westbrook like the idea of playing in South Florida?
The arrival of Jimmy Butler has a lot to do with it.
Westbrook is now 30 and has experienced nothing but failure in terms of team success. He is one of the more accomplished players currently in the league, and his individual resume stacks up very well historically with other superstar guards, especially now that he’s averaged a triple-double in each of the last three seasons, a phenomenal accomplishment no matter how you slice it.
But Westbrook is one of the true demon competitors in the NBA, and he deserves a real shot at a world championship.
In Miami, Butler would give him a costar that would take the load off him, much like George and Kevin Durant did when they shared the scoring burden with him in recent seasons.
The difference is that Butler is not as much a volume shooter as George or Durant (he has career averages of 16.7 points and 12.1 shot attempts per game), which may make it easier for the two to develop chemistry without feeling like they’re stepping on each other’s toes.
Like Westbrook, Butler is also a fierce competitor who loves to take center stage in crunch time and in the playoffs. Both could find plenty of common ground just based on that truly uncommon intangible.
If Butler is willing to focus on doing a little bit of dirty work, he and Westbrook could make a viable pick-and-roll combo. Butler has also proven to be a reliable three-point shooter from the corners, which could make him a great target for Westbrook when he penetrates the paint.
With Kawhi Leonard headed to the Clippers and Durant not likely to play the entire 2019-20 season for the Brooklyn Nets, acquiring Westbrook and combining him with Butler and the young prospects Pat Riley has accumulated the last few years could give the Heat a puncher’s chance of reaching the NBA Finals.
Riley could also be a mentor of sorts to Westbrook, who plays with reckless abandon and needs to learn how to tone it down just a little at times so that he isn’t his own worst enemy. Riley’s leadership and wisdom was very helpful for LeBron James when he arrived in South Florida ringless at age 25, and the team president could probably tell Westbrook stories about the maturation of Magic Johnson during his days as head coach of the Showtime Lakers.
With the Thunder looking to rebuild, sending out Goran Dragic in a potential Westbrook deal could appeal to Presti, as Dragic’s contract, which is worth about $19.2 million in 2019-20, will expire next summer.
With the NBA looking as wide open as anyone can ever remember, especially in the Eastern Conference, now is the time to strike while the iron is hot for the Heat.