The confetti is still falling from the sky on the 2020 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, who won the title under unprecedented circumstances. The Lakers were built for it. They were always going to be championship contenders. That was clear the moment they landed Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, teaming him up with LeBron James.
The Miami Heat weren't supposed to be on the level of the Lakers this year. In fact, they weren't supposed to be seen as contenders until the summer of 2021 when they could add another superstar on a max deal.
Jimmy Butler changed that.
Butler's arrival in Miami made them a good team - a superstar away from great. His performance in the playoffs and specifically in the Finals now have the Heat with different expectations heading into 2020-21 - they can compete now.
Yes, the Lakers won the championship, but let's not overlook the fact that Miami was two wins away from the title themselves. Let's not overlook the fact that neither Bam Adebayo nor Goran Dragic were at their healthiest. And let's not overlook the fact that Butler isn't a superstar away from bringing the Heat a title, he may very well be the superstar.
Butler put on a show in the 2020 NBA Finals, averaging 26.2 points, 9.8 assists, 8.3 rebounds while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. He played so well that no one even mentions the fact that he turned his ankle not once - but twice - in Game 1 of the series.
Butler's 40-point triple-double without Adebayo and Dragic in the lineup for Miami's first win of the series was historic. His 35-point triple-double without Dragic and a compromised Adebayo in the Heat's second win of the series was equally as impressive but there aren't any moral victories in basketball. Butler and the Heat would rather be champs than get patted on the back for a surprisingly great season, but here's one thing they can take away from the weirdest year in NBA history: Jimmy Butler belongs.
Bulter proved on the biggest stage with the brightest lights that he belongs amongst the best in the league. Those who are good enough to lead a team to a championship. Butler might have always felt he was that good and that self-belief is a large reason he's been able to turn himself from a late first-round pick into an All-Star but now we know it, and the league knows it too. We all have tangible evidence that Butler can elevate his game to a level that very few can. He didn't just perform on the biggest stage, he went toe-to-toe with one of the best to ever do it and held his own.
That should open the Heat's eye to the championship window that's in front of them and maybe instead of waiting to see who's available in the 2021 free-agent class, they'll strike now. Would Chris Paul have gotten them over the hump? Is Kevin Love or Blake Griffin an option? Those may be dream scenarios but those types of moves are now worth exploring the potential of. Championship windows don't stay ajar forever.
There's a lot of unknown with the Heat's upcoming off-season, NBA.com's Scott Rafferty broke it all down beautifully.
The Bucks, Raptors, Celtics and 76ers aren't going anywhere and the Nets are set to enter the conversation soon - the East isn't getting any easier either, meaning Miami's decisions come with a lot of weight. But they're in a good spot. They already have what all 30 teams are looking for -
a superstar Jimmy Butler.
Someone they can build a championship team around. I'm not sure if we knew that a year ago, but we know it now.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.