Jimmy Butler’s agent was asked what makes the 76ers swingman so special and the player he is.
That question took Bernie Lee back to Wednesday night’s postgame press conference when his client was asked what leads to winning close games. Lee pointed out that teams with a plus-five in point differentials over a season tend to win more than 50 games. In his experience, only about four to six squads per year have that plus-five point differential.
Lee went on say that you can look at Butler’s statistical averages.
“But the thing I try and highlight and point out to people ties into the theme I just mentioned of five points or less," the agent said. “He’s been in 172 games that have been decided by five points or less, and his team has won 98 of them, meaning in his entire career he’s won 57 percent of the games that essentially in my opinion define teams and organizations.”
The Sixers (47-25) acquired Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a multi-player trade back on Nov. 12. He’s been in 18 such games with the Sixers, and they have won 12, or 66.7 percent, of them.
“So for me, you can highlight everything else, but that’s the substance that I point out,” Lee said. “It’s why he’s going to be one of the most sought-out free agents this summer, and to me, what makes him a ‘franchise guy.' ”
The Eastern Conference’s third-best team does play at its best when Butler has the ball, especially late in games. The 29-year-old is averaging 19.3 points, 5.1 rebounds , 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals. And he’s one of the league’s best players in the clutch.
His average of 6.8 points scored in the fourth quarter is tied with New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis for ninth in the NBA. However, that doesn’t even come close to accounting for his fourth-quarter impact.
Just ask the Sixers’ past three opponents: the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, and Milwaukee Bucks.
Butler scored 15 of his 22 points, including three three-pointers and the Sixers’ final basket, in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s dramatic 118-115 victory over the Celtics. Tuesday, he tallied 7 of his 23 points in the final quarter in the 118-114 win over the Hornets at the Spectrum Center. And Sunday, he scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter of the 130-125 victory over the Bucks at the Fiserv Forum.
“Now, I’m not smart enough to tell you how he does this or why only he knows what changes for him in the closing minutes of games,” Lee said. "But I can tell you in a league based on numbers that one doesn’t lie. The sample size I’m using is over eight years.
“So when you talk about him, start and end right there.”
The agent added that Butler doesn’t deserve all the credit for this throughout his eight-year career. He notes that Butler has played with good teammates and really good coaches.
“But over his entire NBA career and the portion of games [I’m] highlighting here with the change that takes place in the NBA, et cetera,” Lee said, “he has been the one common theme in all these games.”
Butler is expected to opt out of the final year, 2019-20, of his contract this summer to become a free agent.