On his fourth team in four years, Jimmy Butler hasn't exactly had the easiest time adjusting to new surroundings.
By the time his stints in Chicago, Minnesota, and Philadelphia ended, bridges were burned and animosity was high. As a free-agent in 2019, there were many who were reluctant to bring him in, simply because of his tumultuous past.
A year later, however, and Butler's value and reputation as a player have never been higher. He has been a leader, galvanizer, and a bonafide star for the Heat this season, and he has been a major driving force behind their unexpected run to the Finals.
As he prepares to face off against LeBron James and the Lakers in the Finals, one can't help but wonder what might've been had he signed with a different team last summer.
According to Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register, the Purple and Gold were apparently considering bringing on the 5x All-Star.
“The foundational piece of “Heat Culture” could have been a part of Lakers culture. Jimmy Butler was discussed as an option when the Lakers considered how to use their max salary slot they cleared after the trade for Anthony Davis."
Unfortunately, they waited a bit too long trying to decide, and Pat Riley and the Heat were able to sway him right away.
They ended up waiting out the early action, when Butler was at the center of a sign-and-trade deal from Philadelphia (where he had also worn out his welcome) to Miami. Kawhi Leonard ended up signing with the Clippers, creating an NBA without a true super team.
In the end, it all worked out. The Lakers were able to assemble some depth around their two stars while the Heat are riding Butler and their hard-nosed culture to impressive success in the East.
But as L.A. prepares to suit up against that Miami team, with Butler there to block their path, they'll be thinking about the opportunity they missed in the summer of '19. Can you blame them?