As it turns out, the Celtics never needed a 'player like Jimmy Butler' to win


For years, Celtics fans commonly mused about acquiring a star “like Jimmy Butler.” The speculation reached a fever pitch leading into the 2017 NBA Draft, but the rumors continued for years.

Good thing a trade didn’t actually happen.

Butler enters the Eastern Conference Finals as maybe the best player in the postseason. He’s putting up an incredible 28.7 points per game and more than two steals per night. But throughout Butler’s career, the stat line hasn’t always told the true story.

As old friend John Tomase points out, Butler has continually clashed with coaches and teammates throughout his 10-year NBA career. After developing into an All-Star with the Bulls, he publicly declared he would no longer play for then-head coach Fred Hoiberg. So the Bulls traded him to the Timberwolves, where he spent a miserable season chastising other players during practice. “You can’t win without me,” Butler reportedly said during one notable blow-up.

Butler demanded a trade, and the Timberwolves were happy to oblige. They sent him to the 76ers, where he feuded with coach Brett Brown about his role in the offense. The Sixers also dealt Butler after one season, because Brown reportedly refused to coach him.

At that point, Butler was 30 years old, and had never advanced past the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

Butler has delivered since landing in Miami. The Heat are facing the Celtics in the ECF for the second time in three years. Last time around, Miami beat the Celtics in six games.

But that was during the NBA Bubble, and the Celtics were self-imploding. The situation is different this time around.

The Celtics reportedly inquired about Butler a couple of times. They were apparently interested in 2016, and then again in 2017.

One scenario had the Celtics trading Jae Crowder and two first-round picks to the Bulls for Butler in 2016. One of those picks, of course, turned into Jaylen Brown.

Butler is a great player, but Brown has more of a winning pedigree. This is the third Eastern Conference Finals that Brown and Jayson Tatum will play in together (Brown has played in four overall).

The Celtics didn’t need to bring in a star “like Jimmy Butler.” They have two guys who are better.