Barry Jackson

There’s a lot to like about Heat trade target Jimmy Butler, but here’s one concern

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: ‘A lot of teams are dealing with a bunch of noise’

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media after practice on the second day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season at FAU Arena on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 in Boca Raton, FL.
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks to the media after practice on the second day of the Miami Heat training camp in preparation for the 2018-19 NBA season at FAU Arena on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 in Boca Raton, FL.

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Thursday:

As the Heat and Timberwolves continue discussions on a Jimmy Butler trade, here are some quantifiable ways to measure Butler’s value:

1. He ranked fifth among all shooting guards last season in scoring at 22.2 per game, narrowly behind Victor Oladipo, DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal and Lou Williams.

2. He was fifth among all shooting guards in field-goal percentage at 47.4 and seventh in free-throw percentage at 85.4.

3. He allowed the player he was defending to shoot 44.1 percent, which ranked fourth (from a defensive standpoint) among starting shooting guards, behind only C.J. McCollum, Alan Crabbe and Donovan Mitchell.

4. He was fourth in steals at 1.97 per game. In NBA.com’s annual general manager poll released Wednesday, Butler finished second in the category of best perimeter defender with 7 percent of the vote. Kawhi Leonard won it with 40 percent.

5. ESPN’s complex formula rated him No. 1 among all shooting guards last season in Real Plus-Minus and second (behind Oladipo) in wins at 12.8.

Here’s the definition of those categories: RPM is a player’s estimated on-court impact on team performance, measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. RPM takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors

Meanwhile, “RPM Wins” provide an estimate of the number of wins each player has contributed to his team’s win total on the season. RPM Wins include the player’s Real Plus-Minus and his number of possessions played.

So that, in a nutshell, speaks to why the Heat wants Butler. He’s as good a two-way guard as there is in the Eastern Conference, possibly the best.

But here’s the concern, beyond any trepidation of paying him $40 million and $43 million in the final two seasons of his contract: Butler has topped 70 games once in the past six seasons, when he played in all 82 in 2012-13.

Over the last five seasons, he has played in 67, 65, 67, 76 and 59 games. In 2014-15, he missed a month with an elbow injury. The following season, a knee strain cost him four weeks. Last season, he was out Feb. 23 through April 5 after meniscus surgery on his right knee.

And this past offseason, he had surgery on his right wrist, an injury he’s still rehabilitating.

Though Butler is 29, there’s a lot of wear and tear on his body after averaging a league high 37.6 minutes during the past five seasons.

According to fivethirtyeight.com, Butler has played at least 45 minutes in 26 games during the past five years. No other player has more than 15 such games.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday that “when the Timberwolves return from a West Coast preseason road trip early Thursday morning, president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau is expected to push for Butler to return to practice and start preparations for the regular season, league sources said. Butler could return as soon as next week, but hasn’t made a decision.”

The Heat so far has been unwilling to succumb to Minnesota’s request for Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo and a No. 1 draft pick. Miami has been reluctant to deal either player.

Some of the Heat’s shooting numbers are ugly, early on: Tyler Johnson is 4 for 17, Dwyane Wade 5 for 21, Goran Dragic 8 for 21 and Justise Winslow 4 for 15. None of this is a concern yet, with Wade rounding into shape. But Johnson cannot afford another slow start if he wants to get regular minutes in a crowded backcourt, even with Dion Waiters out.

Winslow has been given some of the ball-handling responsibilities he both craved and earned with good work last year, but the results have been mixed. He has four assists, three turnovers in two games.

Encouraging to see Briante Weber hit his first three three-point attempts in preseason. If Weber can at least make opponents respect him on that shot, that would go a long way toward gaining traction as an NBA player. His defense certainly is good enough.

As Fox Sports Sun’s Eric Reid noted, 6-9 center Marcus Lee could end up being a better NBA player than college player. Lee was active and productive against Charlotte, with 10 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. He never hit a three-pointer in college at Kentucky or Cal, but showed decent range Tuesday.

Among the fringe players competing for maybe one roster spot, Lee and Weber have been the best so far (excluding two-way players Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten).

Hassan Whiteside entered Thursday leading the NBA in preseason rebounding (14 per game) and tied for the scoring lead among centers who have started at least two games this preseason (17 per game). The early results show a determined player who worked diligently on his game and came back with a good attitude.

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