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Why wasn’t Jimmy Butler drafted higher in the NBA draft?

Such is the effect of Heat star, that even today when teams select the No. 30 pick in the NBA Draft, their fans hope they’ve found the next Jimmy Butler.

Such is the effect of Heat star, that even today when teams select the No. 30 pick in the NBA Draft, their fans hope they’ve found the next Jimmy Butler.

From a Draft class that included, Kawhi Leonard, Miami’s leader came into the NBA to the sound of very little fanfare. Indeed, many expected him to be a role player and not much more. It’s now clear that they were all wrong.

Jimmy Butler: From a Draft snub to among the NBA’s best

There’s no real way to ignore the fact that Jimmy Butler was a one-of-a-kind situation when he was selected with the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Taken by the Chicago Bulls at No. 30, it’s worth noting that the Celtics could also have taken Butler as they held the 25th and 27th picks at that time, however, in failing to do so they missed out on a player who is an icon of the league today. What’s even more ironic is the fact that the Celtics actual pick, JaJuan Johnson, would make only 36 appearances in the league before departing it just a year later.

As for Butler, the so-called ‘late bloomer’ who was widely projected to be a second-round pick and a player who most scouts believed would be used in rotation, the 6-foot-7 swingman has now established himself as one of the best on both ends of the court and as you well know, is currently fighting for an NBA Championship with the Miami Heat. Indeed, twelve years later Butler has made six NBA All-Star appearances, been named to five All-Defensive Second Teams, was named Most Improved Player in 2015, and will undoubtedly be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he calls time on his career.

So, why wasn’t Jimmy Butler drafted higher?

Though hindsight is obviously 20/20 i.e., it’s easy to make fun of the teams that passed on Butler, given where he’s at today, it would be unfair not to cite some valid points about the kind of player he was when he entered the Draft in 2011. For starters, his shot was not the best and many believed that wouldn’t change. Then there was his athletic prowess or rather lack thereof. He wasn’t particularly fast nor did he have an incredible vertical leap, such that most thought he would struggle to deal with the physicality of the NBA. What Butler did have, was the intangibles.

An incredible work ethic, a loveable character, a willingness to do the dirty work and of course a high level of intelligence. Truth be told, it’s not that people thought he couldn’t play in the NBA, but they didn’t think he would excel in it. Ultimately, what we know today is that Butler increased in strength immensely, he loves a bit of the rough stuff, can run forever and his reading and anticipation of the game is among the best in the league right now. There’s also his shot, which is definitely a whole lot better. Perhaps it’s as the saying goes, ‘hard work pays off.’