NBA scouts explain why they’d start Jimmy Butler at PF and bring Caleb Martin off bench

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of the Miami Heat shifting Jimmy Butler to the power forward slot is something that some NBA scouts believe is a wise strategy to follow.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald spoke to two unnamed scouts who believe that Martin would be more effective as a reserve for Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.

“As a supporting cast player, he plays exactly the way they want him to play,” the first scout said. “He provides shooting. He’s a guy who can play in transition. He can score off the dribble. He plugs a lot of holes. I like him coming off the bench.”

Putting Martin on the bench at the start of games led to a discussion about who to start at power forward, with Butler being chosen for that role.

“I would rather have Butler at the four, and bring Caleb off the bench,” the second scout responded. “I like Caleb. Excellent DNA. His shooting came around last year. He’s a hustler, a Heat guy. He can defend, has some defensive versatility, and now that he’s making threes; that’s part of the reason he got paid. Somewhat limited, but he gets the most out of his ability and he really competes.

“I would be a little concerned about [power forward]. Caleb Martin could be a starting four but does that lead to a championship? Is this a guy you’re going to play into May with as your starting four? Is he getting overmatched when it really counts?”

Last September, the Heat signed Martin to a two-way deal after he’d played two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets. That modest investment turned out positively, with Spoelstra starting Martin in 12 of the 60 games he played last season.

Martin’s efforts on the court led the Heat to reward him during the offseason with a three-year deal. That confidence could mean that Martin ends up starting more during the upcoming campaign.

Last season, Martin played at the power forward slot less than a quarter of the time he was on the court. Other players such as Max Strus, Haywood Highsmith and Nikola Jovic may also see time in that role in the 2022-23 season.

Butler is set to begin his fourth season in a Heat uniform and possesses the talent and mindset to play as a guard or forward. He quickly established himself as a central component of the team during his first season, leading it to Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals.

A quick playoff exit for the Heat in the following campaign was then followed by last season’s playoff push that ended with a painful loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Butler turned in an epic performance in Game 6 in order to push the series to seven games.

Exactly how Spoelstra approaches this situation will take shape once the Heat’s training camp gets underway. He may end up taking the advice of those scouts or go in a different direction.

Butler isn’t likely to care where he plays as he continues to look for his first NBA title. In Martin’s case, he now has a level of security that allows him to also take a more team-oriented approach.

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Brad Sullivan is a freelance writer for, having been an avid fan of NBA basketball for more than four decades. During that time, he's watched the Heat evolve from gestation period to expansion team all the way to three-time NBA champions. He'll follow their quest toward again reaching those lofty heights, and do so by offering some perspective along the way.