Milwaukee was at home and up 14 going into the 4th quarter. In fact, there was a point late in the 3rd quarter where Milwaukee was up 102-86 and I turned the game off. I started watching the Warriors-Kings game instead because I thought it was over.
Miami stayed hot from three, as I predicted they would, shooting 17/45 as a team, or 37.6%, which is pretty good although not as good as Milwaukee’s 14/33 from deep or 42.4%.
The Bucks lost this game for one major reason: they were just 28/45 from the free throw line, 62.2% as a team. Giannis was 10/23 from the line and Jrue Holiday split a pair of free throws late that only put the Bucks up 2 instead of 3, which then enabled Jimmy Butler to get that late game-tying bucket.
The Bucks had so many chances to put this game away late but they just couldn’t do that one thing that they needed to do to put it out of reach.
With Milwaukee up 2 with 18 seconds to play, Jimmy Butler attempted a go-ahead three from the exact same spot as he tried it last year in the conference finals against Boston. He missed then, and he missed last night, and Jrue hit a pair to put Milwaukee up 4 with just 14 seconds to play.
But then Gabe Vincent went down and hit a three with 8 seconds left, and then after that was when Jrue split the free throws and Milwaukee was only up 2.
That one last box that needed to be checked, Milwaukee just consistently failed to do it. It was like a baseball team that has a lead in the 9th inning, and gets the batter down to 2 strikes, but then gives up a hit. Then gets the next batter down to 2 strikes, gives up another hit. And keeps on doing this until they end up blowing the game. The Bucks were so close, multiple times, to putting this game on ice, but they just could not get there.
I know everyone wants to blame Coach Bud for not calling a timeout when his team got the ball back with 0.5 seconds left on the clock, and that’s a major blunder.
Apparently, according to Max Strus, who went on the Dan LeBatard show today, Spo was shocked that Milwaukee didn’t call a timeout there: “Spo came in the huddle and he was like, ‘they didn’t call a timeout, what are they doing?'”
When Bud saw that Grayson Allen was the one who had the ball in his hands as the final seconds of overtime ticked away with his team down 2, and the offense was clearly in disarray, Bud should’ve called a timeout to regroup or something.
Bud also should’ve let Giannis guard Jimmy, as it was clear by Game 4 that Jrue could not slow him down at all. You have to try something else, you can’t just stubbornly stick to your plan when it’s not working. Even if you just let Giannis guard Jimmy late in crunch time, like LeBron often does late in close games–he’ll take over guarding the other team’s best player, even still to this day at age 38.
Look, I wouldn’t be shocked if Bud loses his job, but he didn’t tell Giannis to miss 13 free throws. He didn’t tell his team to miss 17 total free throws in a game that went to overtime.
There’s a lot you can criticize Bud about, but if the Bucks players just hit a few more free throws, they would’ve won this game.
The Giannis slander is raining down hard and heavy on social media.
The main theme is that he can no longer be considered the best player in the world.
I’m sure at some point over the past couple years I’ve written on this site that he’s the best player in the world, but I wish I hadn’t, because I’ve never really believed it. I just kind of cowardly went along with the popular consensus, but in the back of my mind, I’ve always had my doubts.
And it’s not because of the free throw shooting, either. He actually came up huge from the free throw line in the 2021 Finals and seemed to silence a lot of those critics who were constantly dogging him for his struggles.
This is the big thing: the argument for Giannis being the best in the world is that he’s dominant on both ends of the floor. But I’m sorry, I just can’t sit here and say Giannis is this ferocious defender when Jimmy Butler did what he did to Milwaukee in this series. Where was Giannis? I know it’s not his team’s defensive scheme to have him guard Jimmy, but you have to at least slow the guy down somewhat. You have to go up to your coach in the huddle and say, “I got him.” If you are That Dude, arguably the best defender in the league, you have to show it. You
Look, Giannis exited Game 1 with a back injury, then missed Games 2 and 3, and when he came back his team was already down 2-1. Yes, they lost the last two games with him, but this was a team failure. I’m not going to be one of those people who comes after him for not having a “bag,” although I think he does need to develop some more offensive versatility.
And for what it’s worth, in Game 5, despite going 10/23 from the line, Giannis did have 38 points and 20 rebounds on 14/27 shooting. His 7 turnovers were way too many, compared to just 3 assists, and he came up with 0 blocks and 0 steals.
The reason I think it was a mistake to crown him as the best player in the world was because I don’t think the Bucks’ 2021 Title proved it to be true.
We drew the wrong conclusions from that playoff run.
First of all, Milwaukee would’ve lost to Brooklyn in the second round that year if Kyrie and James Harden didn’t get hurt.
Giannis got locked up by Kawhi in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Bucks choked royally to the Heat in the Bubble.
Then they won that fluky ring in 2021, benefitting from injuries to to Brooklyn, and then playing a Suns team that really wasn’t a great team (they had beaten the Lakers in the first round and the Clippers in the conference finals primarily due to injuries those teams suffered, not because Phoenix was better).
In 2022, despite not having Khris Middleton in the second round against Boston, the Bucks had a 3-2 lead in the series and lost Game 6 at home, allowing Jayson Tatum to drop 46. They then got blown out on the road in Game 7 and got eliminated.
Now, this year, they get bounced in the first round by an 8-seed, with Giannis missing several games and probably not being 100%.
If we look at the past 5 years, it’s a lot of playoff failure and disappointment for Giannis and the Bucks. I think we dismissed it all because of the Championship they won in 2021, and that’s kind of a blind spot we all have when it comes to evaluating NBA players. We have a tendency to draw too much from a team winning a Championship, when in fact it might well have been a fluke that they won.
Yes, there are fluke Championships.
I’m not saying we should discredit the Bucks’ 2021 ring or put an asterisk on it or anything, but we shouldn’t have overreacted the way we did. We said, “Okay, that’s it, all the playoff choker allegations against Giannis and this team are thoroughly discredited, he’s the best in the world, he is a confirmed playoff monster, this is now the team to beat.”
But that wasn’t true.
Just like a lot of people overreacted to the run Kawhi and the Raptors went on in 2019 and started calling Kawhi the best in the world when it wasn’t true, we should not have overreacted in 2021.
Sometimes a team can win a Championship and it doesn’t actually prove that their best player is the best in the world. Sometimes the team that won the Championship isn’t actually the best team in the league, but instead won it because of luck and/or injuries to the other teams.
Somebody has to win the Championship every year. Oftentimes it’s the healthiest team that is the last team standing. That does not prove that they are the best team, or that their best player is the best in the world.
Last year, the Warriors won a Championship facing a Nuggets team in the first round that didn’t have Murray or Porter, then a Grizzlies team that was missing Ja Morant for 3 of the 6 games, then a majorly overachieving Mavericks team, and then a Boston team that was good enough to win the series but ultimately choked and/or ran out of gas in the Finals. It was one of the easiest roads to the Finals we’ve seen in a while, and then, in the Finals, Boston had a golden opportunity to go up 3-1, but just completely squandered it. Over the last couple games of the series, it looked like Boston’s whole team had dead legs (other than Jaylen Brown in Game 6).
Plus, Jayson Tatum is a big ol’ pussy who averaged 21-7-7 on a nauseating 36.7% field goal shooting in the series. His 48.1% true shooting average over the 6 game series was just pitiful. He did shoot 20/44 from three in the series, but on twos, he was 24/76–horrible. Just horrible. Boston as a team shot 7/21 in the 4th quarter of that Game 4 when they had a chance to go up 3-1.
The Warriors won that Championship last year because they had an easy path to get their, their Finals opponent choked, and Golden State benefitted from having a $350 million roster. (It’s the same story this year, too: The Warriors will pay more in luxury taxes alone than Sacramento’s entire team payroll, plus DeAaron Fox is now dealing with a broken finger.)
Again, somebody has to win the Championship every year.
It doesn’t always mean that team, or the superstar player on that team, is the best in the world. Sometimes it just means the breaks went their way and they were lucky enough to avoid injuries while the other teams didn’t.
I don’t know who the best player in the world is. I’m still inclined to say it’s LeBron, but he’s clearly not himself after that foot injury and he certainly isn’t playing like it at the moment. I still would choose him over everyone else in the league, though.
I have always been hesitant to say it’s Steph, too, because I just think they have such a phenomenal roster and their overall system is the best in the league. They have the best coach. I’m not saying Steph is totally a system player, but I don’t think he’d be as good without Kerr, Draymond, Klay, Wiggins and the rest of that $350 million payroll.
We literally saw this in 2021. In 2021, Steph was probably the best offensive player in the league. Just going bananas all season long. Averaged 32 a game and won the scoring title. Draymond was there, Wiggins was there, Looney was there–the only guy who was missing was Klay. Despite Steph playing out of his mind good for the whole season, they didn’t even make the playoffs. They lost in the play-in game to the Lakers, and then lost again to the Grizzlies, and didn’t even make the playoffs.
The next season, Klay Thompson comes back, they win the Championship.
So we’ve seen Steph without the full armada backing him up. He didn’t get far.
It’s just hard for me to consider Steph the best player in the world when he is elevated so much by that roster around him and that Steve Kerr system.
Golden State has four players making over $25 million a year. That’s just ridiculous. And they just gave Jordan Poole a contract that will pay him around $32 million a year starting next season. No other team in the league has that much talent.
Shit, Andrew Wiggins is such a luxury for them to have. He’s a former #1 draft pick with loads of talent, great size, but he just has never had the mentality to live up to what he was expected to be getting drafted that high. He has the mentality of a sidekick, but the talent of a #1 option. I see this man in the Kings series–dude is a bucket. His midrange game is nice. And it’s because he’s a legit dude. This is a guy who in Minnesota was averaging 23 points a game, and now he’s being asked to be the third, sometimes fourth option on the team. He’s way overqualified for that role, but he excels in it. I think it’s because he has no pressure and he can just play.
Now, I will give Steph credit that developing his floater has made him so much more dangerous. That’s been one of the most underrated improvements he’s made to his game over the past several years–I feel like he’s almost automatic with the floater nowadays.
Steph is definitely up there, but when you consider how limited he is defensively and how much he benefits from that incredible system they have, I just don’t know good he truly is. Like, if you took him off of Golden State and put him on, say, Cleveland in place of Donovan Mitchell.
Is that team winning a Championship? I don’t think so.
I think Steph is in such an unbelievably perfect situation, and there are few other players around the league that have it as good as he does. Actually, no, there’s nobody else.
In last night’s Game 5 win in Sacramento, the Warriors had four players score 20+ points. Steph had 31 but he was just 2/10 from three (he had the floater going). Klay, Wiggins and Draymond were a combined 27/45 from the field and combined for 66 points.
And those boys hit most of the big shots down the stretch last night to put that game away:
That’s what you get with a $350 million roster.
I know Warriors fans get LIVID when you point this out but it’s true. They have an absolutely phenomenal roster, and it’s the main reason why they’re so good. I would say they’re a superteam considering all the max contract guys they have.
“Oh but they drafted all those guys! You can’t punish them for being good at drafting!” They’re good at drafting? Explain James Wiseman, then. Drafting is like 75% luck. You tell me the Warriors get a guy like Draymond Green–one of the greatest defenders in NBA history–in the second round and that’s not luck? Any player that gets drafted in the second round, or is undrafted, that turns into a Hall of Famer–that means the team got lucky, because every other team in the league passed on that player in the draft (in some cases passed on him twice).
You can have a drafted superteam. You absolutely can. When the Thunder had KD, Russ and Harden–if they would’ve kept that team together like they should’ve, it would’ve been a superteam. Three guys who all went on to win MVPs–yeah, superteam. I don’t care if they were all drafted to the same team as a result of ping pong balls falling the right way. It doesn’t matter how you assemble it, if you have multiple MVPs on the same team, that’s a superteam. It doesn’t have to be a pejorative term.
But the Warriors, while they did draft Steph, Klay, Draymond and Poole, also didn’t draft Wiggins.
Look, I respect the hell out of Steph. I think he’s a borderline top-10 all-time player. But the dude stands on the shoulders of giants more than any other superstar in the league. There is no superstar in the league that is in a better situation when you consider surrounding talent, coaching, front office, and ownership. Not a single one. Golden State is the best organization in the league.
I think LeBron has it pretty damn good with the Lakers right now after the deadline moves. LeBron has also had a game in this postseason where three of his teammates went for 20+ efficiently: Game 1 of this series against Memphis. LeBron has Anthony Davis, and there is no other superstar in the league that has a teammate as good as AD.
But I still don’t think LeBron’s situation is quite as good as Steph’s. The Warriors have a better front office than the Lakers (probably better than anybody’s). They have a better owner (again, probably better than anybody else’s owner). Darvin Ham isn’t nearly as good a coach as Steve Kerr (in large part because Ham is a rookie and because there might not be any coaches in the NBA better than Steve Kerr besides Spo).
And over the past few years, LeBron and AD just haven’t been able to stay healthy enough to compete for titles. Also, Golden State has better shooting than the Lakers. You put LeBron in that system with all those shooters around him? They’d never lose. Giannis too. Hell, you could put Embiid, or Luka, or really any superstar player in that Golden State system and they’d be the best team in the league, I think.
So it’s hard for me to pick a best player in the world. I can’t pick Steph because Golden State to me just resembles the Spurs Dynasty too much–yes, like Tim Duncan, the “system” is mostly the star player. But it’s also true that both Tim Duncan and Steph were in virtually perfect situations for the vast majority of their careers.
I know it’s definitely not Kevin Durant, because we all saw in that series against the Clippers that Devin Booker was the unquestioned #1 option on that team. KD was doing what, in my opinion, he’s always wanted to do: be a supercharged second option who gets 15-20 shots a night and goes for 25-30 points a night, no more no less, while having someone else shoulder all the pressure.
I think KD just wants to be along for the ride, even though he has GOAT-level offensive talent. He’ll play a big role, but I don’t think he wants the weight of the world on his shoulders.
My biggest issue with KD is actually not with KD himself. (Although I do think he’s a pussy-ass superteam merchant who ruined the NBA for 3 years by going to Golden State in the biggest bitch move the league has ever seen, I’m over that, and I do ultimately respect KD for leaving and going to try to win a legit ring over in Brooklyn. Although he did try to build a new superteam there almost immediately with James Harden. And now he’s on another debatable superteam in Phoenix, although they are a deeply flawed roster with no bench and no grit.)
No, my biggest issue with KD is the way the media acts like he’s this unstoppable monster who destroys everything in his path, and like didn’t just get swept a year ago by Boston, like he didn’t punk out and join the 73-win Warriors.
The media views KD for his potential, not what he actually does. They fall in love with the idea of KD, not the reality. The reality is a guy who is afraid to take over unless he’s got the Warriors superteam backing him up, whose career both before and after Golden State is littered with playoff disappointments. He is not who the media says he is.
But that’s not Kevin Durant’s fault. That’s the media’s fault.
I think KD, as disappointing as it may be given his talent, just wants to be a part of a system, rather than the system itself. In many ways he’s like Andrew Wiggins, where he has tons of talent but just doesn’t have that drive or that mentality to be “The Guy.” (Of course KD is more talented than Wiggins is). KD is more comfortable with Devin Booker being “The Guy”–the one who takes 25-30 shots a night when needed, the guy who gets all the blame in losses and the credit in wins. KD is more comfortable being the supporting actor, even though he has the talent to be the lead actor.
So I can’t even consider calling KD the best player in the world, even if he has the talent to be. You have to actually pair that talent with the mentality of the best player in the world.
Who is it, then? Who is the best player in the world?
Before this season, I thought it could’ve been Luka, but missing the playoffs caused his stock to take a bit of a hit. Although it wasn’t all his fault (or Kyrie’s) because they lost almost all of their defensive talent, I still just think the argument that Luka is the best player is a non-starter because he is a liability on defense, and there are valid questions about how good a team can truly be with him being as heliocentric and ball-dominant as he is.
Is it Embiid or Jokic?
Those two might have the most compelling cases, honestly.
But they also have very strong cases against them, too.
Embiid is a physical monster who puts up Shaq or even Wilt-like numbers, and there are few players in the history of the league who can do that.
Yet he’s injury-prone, unreliable, and one of the worst free throw merchants in the league. He’s a playoff dropper because he doesn’t get the same whistle he gets in the regular season, and has never been to the conference finals. I hate the way he falls down all the time–it’s probably half the reason he’s always hurt, and on top of that it’s a huge risk to other players if he rolls up on their ankle or foot.
The thing is, I am more partial to guys who play great team ball–guys who get their teammates involved, who make their teammates better, and who are not just obsessed with racking up as many points as possible.
To be a great team ball player, it requires versatility, because you have to be able to do whatever your team needs you to do to win. This is why I think LeBron is the best player ever: because he is the greatest all around player ever, and is capable of doing whatever his team needs him to do to win.
On that note, it’s why I’ll always be more partial to Jokic over Embiid. Jokic can score, he can rebound, and he is elite as a passer. If he actually cared enough to stat-pad, he would’ve averaged a triple double this year. He finished with 24.5ppg, 11.8rpg and 9.8apg–he was just 12 assists away from averaging 10 a game, as he had 678 assists in 69 games total; 690 assists would’ve gotten him to 10. In fact, I think 686 would’ve done it, as that comes out to 9.956 assists per game, which rounds up to 9.96, which then rounds up to 10.0.
So Jokic was 8 assists away from averaging a triple double–and not a Westbrook triple double, either. He’s not passing up wide open shots just to get more assists. One of the best descriptors I’ve heard of Westbrook is that if they didn’t keep track of assists for stat purposes, he wouldn’t pass the ball. Jokic is the exact opposite–he is as willing a passer as the league has ever seen.
However, the downfall with Jokic is that he leaves a lot to be desired defensively. You want your center to also be a good rim protector as well, and Jokic isn’t that. Nobody fears his shot-blocking or his physicality. You can accept that because he does so much for his team offensively, but when I think of the best player in the league, I think of a guy who gets it done on the offensive and defensive ends. I think of complete players.
And that’s why despite the fact that I’ve always kind of slandered Kawhi, discredited his rings and Finals MVPs, and scoffed at the idea of him as the best player in the league–I do actually think he has a pretty decent case for BITW. He’s lethally efficient on offense, and he can still defend at an elite level when he has to (he’s no longer a DPOTY-level defender as injuries have sapped a lot out of his athleticism, but he can still lock people up).
Now, I would never call Kawhi the best player in the league because, number one, he’s never been the best passer or facilitator. Number two, he’s so injury prone to the point where he can’t play 5 games consecutively, period. And it’s starting to become clear that his load management is not just him being lazy and thinking he’s too good to play regular season games; it’s because his knees simply cannot handle major minutes.
Plus, Kawhi just isn’t verbal enough to be the best player in the world. Sure, you can lead by example, but you also need to be that voice in the huddle, in the locker room, in the practice facility–you need to be that alpha personality that all your teammates look up to and listen to. Kawhi is just kind of a different cat, and while that’s fine, I don’t think he has the leadership qualities you need to be BITW.
Who else is there?
Jayson Tatum? Get out of here. He wasn’t even the best player on his own team in the Finals last year. Maybe if he had the dawg in him like Jaylen Brown does, I’d consider him, but no. I just can’t shake the feeling that Jayson Tatum is a big ol’ pussy when it really boils down to it.
Anthony Davis? He has the talent. He’s arguably the best defensive player in the league. But he’s too inconsistent, too injury-prone, and I don’t know if he actually has the mental makeup of a #1. I think LeBron has been trying to pass him the torch for 4 years now but he just can’t grab it.
And so this is why I think, as crazy as it sounds, LeBron still has perhaps the strongest argument for BITW. But his foot injury is clearly limiting him (just look at his numbers since coming back from injury vs. his numbers from January and February and tell me he’s playing 100%). His three point shot has fallen off a cliff this year (might have a lot to do with the foot, but it was also pretty bad before the foot injury). And at age 38 he’s not the iron man he once was; he, too, is injury-prone.
In fact, just about every one of these BITW candidates are injury prone: LeBron, Steph, KD, Embiid, Kawhi, and even Giannis missed 19 games in the regular season and more than half this series against Miami.
Still, even at 38, LeBron is probably the best all-around player in the league. He can still defend anybody, in spurts, his basketball IQ is as great as it has ever been, he just had a 20-rebound playoff game, his passing is still elite, and when he’s healthy he may be the best rim-finisher in the league when you factor in how awful his whistle is compared to guys like Giannis and Embiid.
No one would say that LeBron is playing at his peak. But even past-his-prime LeBron might still be the best player in the league, at least for now. It’s just tough to really plant my flag on that claim when he’s so clearly limited by his foot injury right now, though.
But wait a second: aren’t we forgetting somebody?
We are, aren’t we?
We’re forgetting the guy who is literally the best player in the world right now, at this moment.
The guy who through the first round of the playoffs is averaging 37.6 points per game on 67.1% true shooting. The Heat lost Tyler Herro, their second scoring option, in Game 1! He did almost all of this without Herro.
Has Jimmy not been the best player in the playoffs thus far?
There’s no denying that.
But come on: he can’t be BITW. He wasn’t even an All Star this year!
He doesn’t put up the numbers in the regular season!
I get it. It’s hard to compartmentalize the fact that he’s a B+ player in the regular season and an A+ player in the playoffs. It feels… fake?
Maybe fake isn’t the right word.
Maybe the right word is… unsustainable.
Like, as in, if he was really this good, then why hasn’t he ever been able to show it over the course of a regular season?
I don’t know.
But the dude clearly has a whole different gear to his game than what he displays in the regular season.
Look, if his performance in this Bucks series was a one-off, then I’d be more inclined to dismiss what he’s doing as a “Linsanity run” or something like that.
But he was amazing in the playoffs last year, too.
And he was amazing in the Bubble. He’s led his team to the Finals before.
He was banged up in 2021 and Miami got smoked by the Bucks, but that was the outlier.
See, with Giannis, the 2021 Championship he won was the outlier.
With Jimmy Butler, since going to Miami, the outlier year was 2021, when they got stomped in the first round. Every other year he’s been brilliant in the playoffs.
We are now looking at three out of the past four playoffs, this dude has elevated his game to such a level that he has had his team in the Finals, in Game 7 of the Conference Finals, and now he’s got his team into the second round after upsetting the #1 overall seed. If he beats the Knicks, he’s back in the Conference Finals for the third time in four years.
That is not a fluke. That is not a one-off.
This dude has been the real deal in the playoffs since the Bubble. And shit, even though his regular season numbers didn’t pop off the page last year, the Heat were the #1 seed in the East! They had the best record in the conference a season ago.
When the Heat got to the Finals in the Bubble, people were inclined to write it off as a fluke just because we’d seen some crazy shit in the Bubble, and because we’d never known Jimmy Butler to be a guy who was good enough to lead a team to the Finals. So we wrote it off as just the wonkiness of the Bubble.
But hasn’t he proved over the past couple years that what the Heat did in the Bubble wasn’t a fluke?
I think so, without a doubt.
2021 was the fluke.
We now have the Bubble, last year, and this year that far outweigh Miami’s 2021 one-and-done playoff showing. I think that’s more than enough evidence to conclude that Jimmy Butler is the real deal.
Over the past four playoffs, including the 2021 fluke, it’s a 47 game sample size (and counting). He’s averaging 25-7-5 plus 2 steals on 53% eFG shooting.
Those are superstar numbers. He’s shooting 35.3% from three, which is okay, but it’s also better than most of the guys who are in the conversation for BITW–pretty much anyone but Steph and KD.
Okay, fine, you’re thinking. So Jimmy Butler is legit. He’s a legit superstar player–one of the ten best players in the league at least. Even though he kind of coasts in the regular season, it’s impossible to deny that he has a higher gear that he can go to consistently in the playoffs, and when he kicks it up to that higher gear, he plays on a level that is as high as anybody in the league, if not higher.
But would you really want him on your team over Steph, Embiid, KD, LeBron, Giannis or Jokic?
And not just any of those guys, but all of them?
That’s where this gets tough. Because I really don’t know if I could say that.
But why not? Just because he averages 22 points a game in the regular season as opposed to 28-29 points a game?
He’s already shown that he can lead his team to the #1 seed. Isn’t that what matters, especially when you know your guy is going to elevate big time once the playoffs start?
Jimmy shown that he can lead you deep into the playoffs. He’s done it twice, and guess what? None of the other players in the BITW conversation have done that over the past four years. The Warriors have one Finals appearance since 2020. KD has only been to the second round. LeBron has a Finals win but other than that hasn’t been out of the first round. Jokic has one Conference Finals over that span.
Jimmy has led his team to more playoff wins over the past four years than any of the other guys in the BITW conversation. His Heat have won 29 playoff games (and counting) since the Bubble.
Giannis has led his team to 28 playoff wins over that span, LeBron 21, Steph 19, Jokic 18, and KD 11. This is all as of Thursday morning, April 27. All but LeBron and Steph’s teams have advanced to the second round as of the time I’m writing this. And Giannis, obviously, who is now eliminated.
The closest analogy I can think of to Jimmy is Kawhi: Kawhi doesn’t do much in the regular season (albeit for a different reason than Butler). But Kawhi has that one memorable playoff run in 2019, and has been in the BITW conversation ever since (we are not going to include his 2014 Finals MVP because he was a role player on that team; people just act like it was an identical run to what he did in 2019, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.)
What, so just because Kawhi won a ring over a Warriors team that was missing KD and Klay, he gets to be included in the BITW talk?
Would the Raptors have still won that title if you replaced Kawhi with Jimmy Butler? I think they could’ve. If Jimmy was playing like he is now, hell yes they could’ve.
I guess the difference is that Kawhi has come close to winning MVPs and has a couple of DPOTY awards to his name, so he does have the hardware from the regular season that Jimmy Butler just doesn’t have, and that is probably the biggest difference between the two.
But unlike Kawhi, Jimmy Butler is available most of the time. He’s not injury prone.
Look, I’m not saying Jimmy Butler is the best player in the world. I’m saying he very well could be because I really don’t know who is right now.
Would I take Jimmy Butler #1 overall if a theoretical redraft of the whole league right now? I don’t think so. But I also don’t know if that’s the right question, either. I would probably take Giannis, I think, or Jokic, because they’re both under 30.
The bottom line is that Jimmy is playing better than any other player in the NBA right now. He is the best in the world through round one. He just is.
And he’s been phenomenal in the playoffs for the better part of the last 4 years.
I think we need to give the guy some credit here because what he’s doing is not a fluke.