The short answer is: Jimmy Butler has played for 4 different teams in his NBA career. They are Bulls (2011-2016), Timberwolves (2017-2019), 76ers (2018), and Heat (2019-2023).
In the modern NBA, players change teams. While trades and free agency have long been a part of the sport, there has never been as much movement as there is today. Athletes constantly move around, especially during free agency. That includes Jimmy Butler.
The slim shooting guard is one of the biggest names in the league, and is a known leader. However, that wasn’t always his legacy. He was once known as a much more transient player with a hot head. This guide will look at the various teams he’s played for to explain why.
From Humble Beginnings
Jimmy Butler didn’t have the same start as most superstars. He wasn’t a high draft pick, nor did his high school highlights take the world by storm. Rather, he played at a junior college and then used that opportunity to push himself and eventually climb all the way to the NBA.
After a successful stint at Marquette college, Butler got his shot at the big time when the Bulls drafted him 30th overall in the 2011 season. They didn’t expect a lot out of him, but hoped he would steadily grow into a solid role player over time. He did that, and more.
Butler took a few years to get going, but it wasn’t long before he thrived in Chicago. After a quiet first three years, he exploded up to averaging 20 points per game, six rebounds, and three assists. Those numbers only rose the more he played.
It wasn’t long before he went from being a role player to a team leader. However, in 2016 he and the Bulls decided to part ways. The organization, hoping to rebuild their team, ended up trading him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn.
A Trip Up North
Though many were surprised by the Butler trade, the superstar didn’t miss a beat. He instantly took over in the same way he did in Chicago, easily filling in the superstar role and putting up big numbers for the Wolves. In fact, his stats only went up even further.
Pairing up with Karl Anthony-Towns, the guard thought he would be able to build a larger team that could finally make a deep playoff push. He’d always wanted a championship, and it seemed like it was his best shot to make that happen.
Unfortunately, as with Chicago, that didn’t come to fruition. Butler played well during his time in Minnesota, but he didn’t get along with the other players. He felt as if they weren’t trying hard enough, and wanted out. After two years, the franchise traded him to the 76ers.
A Troublesome Year
By the time he landed in Philadelphia, Butler had a negative reputation. Organizations knew he could play and contribute to the team, but they worried about his ability to lead a locker room and get along with other players. Many were doubtful he could be a long term solution.
Those speculations followed him to the Sixers. While he played well during his time in the City of Brotherly Love, the franchise never fully had his back. He quarreled with both the players and management, as he thought they could do more to help improve the team.
His competitive spirit put a lot of people off. Even so, Butler tried as hard as he could while playing for the red and blue. It was another season where he put up good stats (averaged 18, 5, and 4) and tried to push the team to the forefront of the NBA.
In the end, it didn’t work. His complaining and in-fighting eventually grew too much and the 76ers decided to send him off in the offseason. After some deliberation, he ended up in Miami.
A Hot End
Going to South Beach put Butler on the fourth team of his career, but it was finally the fit he’d always wanted. There, he had a good team around him and was able to fully embody the leader role he’d spent so many years searching to get.
Rejuvenated in a new city with new players, Butler took the team to the NBA Finals in the 2019-2020 season. Since then, they made the playoffs in 2021 and reached the Conference Finals in 2022. They continue to win, and the ceiling only gets higher with each passing year.
Butler is not someone many fans think of as a journeyman, but he’s had his share of franchise shifting. While the all star has done a good job with the Heat, it wasn’t always that easy. He finally has more power, and has convinced the people around him to buy into his winning ways.
Butler may not have a ring yet, but it looks like he’ll be in Miami for a long time. It’s a great fit, and the place where he may finally achieve his final goal.