Miami Heat: A Jimmy Butler extension is bad, but Pat Riley must offer it

Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade temporarily left the organization in 2016 because of a contract dispute. Wade wanted the team to pay him $50 million over two seasons, but the team wanted to give him $10 million less over the same period. The team wanted the extra cap space to pursue free-agent star Kevin Durant that summer.

The disagreement led Wade to sign with the Chicago Bulls for $47.5 million over two years. Upon arriving in Chicago, Wade revealed that he was on speaking terms with most of the Miami Heat organization, except Pat Riley, because of how the negotiations went.

Wade’s decision has impacted the organization in multiple ways. It affected the team in player recruitment as Wade was the person who recruited top players for the organization. For instance, Lebron James has publicly stated that he came to the Miami Heat organization in 2010 due to, at the time, his seven-year relationship with Wade.

James and Wade forged a friendship during the rookie combine before the 2003 draft. They strengthened their friendship in 2006 as both players were a part of Team USA in a FIBA World Championship tournament.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski had the team spend an entire week around each other without friends and family in Sapporo, Japan. They got closer during that week and decided to have an opt-out clause in their 2007 rookie extension. It set the table for them to team up in Miami.

Wade’s decision also affected the public perception of the team as the Heat organization portrayed itself as a tight-knit family. Before the 2011 finals, Head coach Erik Spoelstra went on record stating that president of basketball operations, Pat Riley, has created a culture where it was them against the world; they were essentially a family. In an attempt to damage control after the Wade debacle, the Heat organization decided to sign Udonis Haslem to multiple one-year contracts.

Unfortunately, the damage control didn’t work as several stars over the next few years, like Gordon Hayward, who took courtesy meetings with the organization but decided to sign elsewhere.

The Miami Heat weren’t able to land another star until Pat Riley buried the hatchet with Dwyane Wade during a funeral for Wade’s agent in January of 2018. After they buried the hatchet, Riley decided to acquire Wade from Cleveland during the 2018 trade deadline.

Seven months after reacquiring Wade, reports started to surface that Jimmy Butler had told the Minnesota Timberwolves that he wanted to be traded to the Heat. Coincidently, Butler was Wade’s teammate during his lone season in Chicago. Butler was reportedly interested in coming to Miami because of how Wade spoke of the Heat organization’s culture during his time in Chicago.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Timberwolves weren’t able to finalize a Butler trade with Miami as Butler went to Philadelphia. While Butler was in Philadelphia, Pat Riley acknowledged that he made a mistake during the Wade negotiations.

Pat Riley felt that he should have given Wade a max contract in 2014 after James left because he had done so much for the organization on and off the court. Pat Riley’s previous statement now puts him in a precarious position as Butler is up for an extension worth $181 million over the next four seasons.

Let’s take a look at why Miami Heat president of basketball operations Pat Riley must offer Jimmy Butler a max extension despite it being a bad idea

Riley does not want to make the same mistake twice because Jimmy Butler has many connections around the league with players. Jimmy Butler is reportedly friendly with Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyle Lowry; all three have been all-stars during their careers. Furthermore, Pat Riley doesn’t want to rehash the narrative that the public perception of the Miami Heat being a family is a marketing ploy.

Therefore, the team has to offer Butler the extension even though it is going to be ill-advised. Butler is a player who has regressed over the past three seasons. Before 2019, Butler shot 37.5 percent outside of the restricted area on 9.7 attempts per game.

Since 2019, his shooting outside of the restricted area has declined by 3.1 percent as he has converted 34.4 percent of his field goals on 8.1 attempts. The decline in his shooting has to do with a sprained right wrist that he suffered in January of 2019.

Consequently, Jimmy Butler has only been effective inside the restricted area in the last two seasons as he has made 66 percent of his shots on 5.45 attempts, creating 7.2 points. One is to assume that this trend will keep going, and Butler will continue to decline as an outside shooter, making it more imperative that he gets into the paint successfully.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Butler is most likely in the back-end of his prime as he will be 33 years old by the time this extension kicks in during the 2022-23 season. When players are in the back-end of their prime, they start losing speed, and it’s harder to get a good look in the paint.

Ideally, they wouldn’t give players in the backend of their prime a large extension, but the Miami Heat will be forced to do so because they don’t want to anger Butler like previous teams.

Former Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor offered Jimmy Butler a four-year extension worth $110 million, $31 million short of the four-year max extension offer. Taylor saw Butler’s co-stars as a better investment as he had already given Andrew Wiggins a max extension and was prepared to offer Karl-Anthony Towns one as well.

Taylor’s decision led Butler to demand a trade. Minnesota was unwilling to trade him at first as former head coach, Tom Thibodeau, had a deep affection for Butler. Therefore, Butler decided to sit out games until he got traded.

Eventually, Butler got traded to Philadelphia for the rest of that season. Miami wants to avoid this scenario to have the opportunity to use Butler’s connections to recruit players and maintain public perception that they are a family.