The Miami Heat, who finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season with a 53-29 record, lost a crucial piece of their hard-nosed starting lineup when power forward P.J. Tucker departed in free agency for a team the Heat beat in the postseason, the Philadelphia 76ers. But Heat superstar Jimmy Butler is not worried about what Tucker’s departure could mean for his team’s rotation.
In fact, Jimmy Butler even made somewhat of a surprising declaration during the Heat media day about a different role he could play in light of Tucker’s exit from South Beach.
“I could play the 4, yes. If they absolutely needed me to play the 4 yes,” Butler said per Wes Goldberg. “But I’m not playing the 4. […] I don’t play the 4.”
"I could play the 4, yes. If they absolutely needed me to play the 4 yes. … But I'm not playing the 4." – More Jimmy Butler https://t.co/PCYw9WVlN0
— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) September 26, 2022
Despite Jimmy Butler’s fiery persona on the court, and his history of beefing with teammates, most memorably in 2018 with the Minnesota Timberwolves, him and departee P.J. Tucker are good friends off the court. When Tucker announced he would be signing with the 76ers, Butler responded to his Instagram post, using the “f-bomb” against Tucker and Joel Embiid, his former teammates. This time, Butler threw another friendly barb Tucker’s way, calling the 6’5 small ball extraordinaire a “traitor“.
Jimmy Butler asked if he would slip into a different role with PJ Tucker gone: “I don’t play the 4”
Also “PJ is a traitor” 🤣 pic.twitter.com/jqeCIcKxGL
— Mike Cugno (@MikeCugnoCBS4) September 26, 2022
Butler’s hesitance to play the four is understandable, given how it means he would be guarding the interior more often, no small task for a 33-year old forward who’s missed considerable time in recent seasons. He would also lose his size and strength advantage on offense, as he usually bullies smaller wings on the block like they’re high schoolers for two easy points.
However, with the Heat set to rely on the unproven Caleb Martin as their starting four, Butler appears to be in for a role that calls for more time at power forward, especially if they fail to make a move for Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, who was instrumental for the Heat during the 2020 NBA Bubble and is on the outs in Phoenix.
Jimmy Butler has proven to be capable of carrying a team on his back, as evidenced by their 2020 Finals run and their seven-game loss against the Boston Celtics in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. But his health will be of utmost importance to the Heat, and surely coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat organization would do whatever it takes to keep him fresh for the postseason.