Jimmy Butler’s former NBA teammate suggests Miami Heat culture may be stealing some credit the veteran deserves

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Tolliver, a former NBA forward and teammate of Jimmy Butler, believes that Miami Heat culture may be taking a little bit away from the credit that Butler deserves for the team’s success since he joined the franchise prior to the 2019-20 season.

Butler and Tolliver played together in Minnesota in the 2018-19 campaign, but Butler was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers that season. He then left Philly in the offseason to join Miami in a sign-and-trade transaction.

Tolliver compared some of Miami’s past success with players like Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and others to the teams that Butler has had success with.

While Tolliver gave credit to the former Heat stars, he believes that the role players around Wade and O’Neal at the time were much better than the ones that Butler has had to work with.

“So think about the Heat before Jimmy, right?” Tolliver told HoopsHype. “They were superstars. They had Dwyane Wade and Shaq and Alonzo Mourning, and like, that’s what made them really good. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Their role players are great, but when they won the championship, D Wade, Shaq, role players were Antoine Walker, Gary Payton. I mean, come on. Like, you know, these are ridiculously good players. Right? None of those guys were undrafted or whatever. What Jimmy has done, you know, to a guy like Duncan Robinson, obviously, but he’s made his name for himself for multiple years now. All these new guys, though, that no one really knew. All of a sudden, these guys look like killers. Right? They look unbelievable. Why? It’s because Jimmy, like Jimmy is that dude, he’s just freaking good.”

Tolliver does have a point, as Miami has surrounded Butler with a lot of undrafted talent that has ended up succeeding in Miami.

While the Heat and head coach Erik Spoelstra certainly deserve some credit for developing all of these players that were overlooked by other franchises, Butler certainly deserves some as well.

Since Butler joined the Heat, the team has made three Eastern Conference Finals appearances and two NBA Finals appearances in four seasons.

This season is Butler’s fifth with the franchise, and the Heat currently hold the No. 7 seed in the East. That shouldn’t be a huge concern for Heat fans as the team made the NBA Finals as the No. 8 seed in the East last season.

Butler was the driving force for Miami’s postseason success in the 2022-23 campaign, averaging 26.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game across 22 playoff appearances.

The Heat have had a bunch of undrafted players around Butler over the years – including Robinson, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Haywood Highsmith, Caleb Martin, Kendrick Nunn and Derrick Jones Jr. – that have had success during Butler’s time in Miami.

Butler clearly does a good job of elevating the players around him, and that’s allowed Miami to exceed expectations in some seasons – such as the 2022-23 campaign – to make deep playoff runs.

The Heat are now hoping that Butler can lead the team to a title, especially after coming so close over the last four seasons.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.