Jimmy Butler doesn’t lead the Miami Heat in points or shot attempts. He’s not even averaging the second-most in those categories.
The Heat’s new leading man is leading in other ways to start the season, creating opportunities for others and anchoring Miami’s top-five defense.
Butler entered Thursday’s road matchup against the Suns averaging 15 points — third on the team behind Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic — on 12 shot attempts per game — third on the team behind Nunn and Justise Winslow. Coach Erik Spoelstra calls Butler’s unselfish approach “really rare for a star player.”
“People use the word star, but I’ve never really been that, to tell you the truth,” Butler said in advance of Thursday night’s game. “I’m really good at basketball. But I’ve never been the best player on my team on so many different levels, whether it be high school, JUCO, college, now in the league. So I just play basketball the right way.”
Butler has never really been a high-volume scorer, with his career-high in shot attempts coming in 2016-17 with the Bulls. He averaged career-highs in points (23.9) and shot attempts (16.5) that season.
To put that number into perspective, there are already 25 players averaging more shot attempts this season than Butler’s career-high. Houston’s James Harden entered Thursday averaging a league-high 23.9 shot attempts.
“I think Jimmy is really unique,” Spoelstra said. “I just think for a max player that he really is just about winning and he’s not necessarily about stats. If you look at his career, he has never averaged over  field goal attempts. When we first started like locking in on him, that was one of the biggest surprises I noticed when I really dug into his statistics, and how much confidence he infuses in guys.”
But all of this doesn’t mean Butler is just standing around watching others make plays. Butler leads the Heat with a usage rate (an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while on the court) of 25.6 percent this season.
Butler also entered Thursday averaging seven rebounds, and a team-high 6.5 assists and 3.8 steals. He’s shooting just 35.4 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from three-point range, though.
“Just continue to play basketball the right way,” Butler said of his approach. “I know how good I am at basketball. I know how good these guys are at basketball. So I’ll continue to give them confidence. I’ll continue to help them be the best player they can be, while I’m continuing to produce at a high level. I know my shots are going to fall sooner or later. All in all, man, as long as we’re winning, I’m happy. When we’re losing, I’m pissed off.”
Leading into Thursday’s game, Heat rookie guard Tyler Herro said he models his game after Suns guard Devin Booker. Well, Booker responded to Herro’s comments.
“That’s a big statement, especially somebody with that talent level,” Booker said Thursday morning following shootaround. “I’m a fan of his game at the same time. I’ve been watching him since high school. Just to see his game progress at every level and just knowing that he’s putting the work in behind it, too, is the most important part for me. He’s hard working. He has that competitive mindset, he has that dog in him every time he touches the court.”
Herro and Booker both played college basketball at Kentucky and were the No. 13 pick in their respective drafts. They also share the same trainer, Robbie Haught.
“For people to look up to and respect my game at that level means a lot because I’m still a fan of players in this game and I look up to people and I still watch people’s film,” Booker said. “So for people to say that about me in the NBA is special.”
▪ Both Heat president Pat Riley and retired Heat guard Dwyane Wade are expected to be in attendance for Friday’s Heat-Lakers game at Staples Center. Sine Wade retired, he has relocated to the Los Angeles area.
Lakers forward LeBron James, who spent four seasons with the Heat, can become the third player ever to reach 1,000 20-point games on Friday. The all-time leader is Karl Malone at 1,134 and second is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at 1,122.
▪ Heat forward Justise Winslow missed Thursday’s game against the Suns with a headache.
Spoelstra said the injury is not related to Winslow’s collision with Nuggets forward Paul Millsap during Tuesday’s game in Denver. It marked the third game Winslow has missed this season, with the first two coming because of lower back stiffness.
The Heat was also without Daryl Macon (G League, two-way contract) and KZ Okpala (left Achilles strain) for Thursday’s game against the Suns.