Every NBA fan can name a great regular-season player who becomes a worse version of themselves in the playoffs. From James Harden to Chris Paul, there are a number of guys in the league who seem to always drop the ball come playoff time.
But could the opposite be true as well? That's the question some are asking after Jimmy Butler's postseason performance so far. In the aftermath of his 41-point showing in Game 1 against Boston, Kendrick Perkins appeared on NBA Today to laud Butler's play and his ability to elevate his game with so much at stake:
"Postseason superstar, that's what Jimmy Butler is," Perkins argued. "Why I say that is, he understands the assignment now. The worst thing that could have happened in the NBA was him going to the Finals two years ago, cause now he knows it's a marathon and not a sprint. He doesn't care about the regular season. And when I say 'don't care' I mean he's not really focused on making the All-Star team, he's not focused on leading the league in scoring, He knows, I need my body to be fresh I need to be the best at winning when it matters the most. Then, all of a sudden, he turns it on and becomes a top 5 player in the NBA as soon as the postseason started."
Butler, 32, doesn't get the same recognition and respect as some of his peers, but none of that matters to him. He's as locked in now as he has ever been — and we're seeing a new level of his game.
During the regular season, he averaged 21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game on 48% shooting. In the playoffs so far, he's averaging 29.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game on 53% shooting. He has been better in almost every way, and it's no doubt a huge reason why Miami is three wins away from an NBA Finals appearance.
Game 2 is on Thursday in Miami, and Butler will no doubt be ready to take a 2-0 series lead.