Stephen A. Smith says Jimmy Butler can’t be best player on championship team

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Even though Jimmy Butler has the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and three victories from a championship, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said he doesn’t think Butler can be the best player on a title-winning team.

“No, I do not,” Smith said when asked if he believed Butler could be the best player on a championship team. “Even when he’s 100 percent, I don’t believe that. Here’s why I don’t believe that. As Kendrick Perkins eloquently explained just a few days ago, you talk about the fact that you think about superstars and what we usually get from those superstars in terms of offensive production — that’s not Jimmy.”

Butler’s offensive production has dropped in the Finals, though he may not be completely healthy heading into Game 4 on Friday night. His decline in scoring is even more glaring when compared to what Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are doing for the Nuggets.

That duo combined for the first 30-point triple-doubles by any teammates in the same NBA game when they each accomplished the feat in Game 3 on Wednesday, a 109-94 Nuggets victory. Jokic had 32 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, and Murray finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to give Denver a 2-1 series lead.

Butler did score 28 points in Game 3 following a 13-point performance in Game 1 and 21-point outing in Game 2. The 33-year-old averaged 37.6 points per game in the first round, with one memorable game of 56 points, and averaged at least 24.6 points per game in each of the next two rounds.

Smith said Butler’s offensive game relies too much on getting free-throw attempts and went on to say that he was not trying to imply that a team can not win a championship with Butler as its best player. However, he did say that it’s not ideal, conventional or normal.

The analyst mentioned Butler losing the 2020 NBA Finals to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami’s loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals facing Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

Butler has been the unquestioned leader during Miami’s surprising run to the Finals, and the Marquette University product remains confident in his team even though it is trailing the series.

Bam Adebayo has provided excellent support against the Nuggets and is actually the Heat’s leading scorer so far in the Finals. In Miami’s only win, a 111-108 victory in Game 2, Gabe Vincent led the Heat with 23 points.

Butler still has an opportunity to prove any doubters wrong with a strong offensive finish, and if the Heat do win the title, it likely will be hard to say that he wasn’t their best player.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.