“I don’t like the look of you. You gotta go…”
That’s what Jimmy Butler’s mother told him when he was 13.
Butler is just one of the free agents in a stacked 2019 NBA free agent class. The NBA offseason has been wild the past few summers, with star players joining new teams, franchises doling out cash like Jordan Belfort because of rises in the cap, and superstars pairing up with each other in the quest of a championship.
The 2019 NBA offseason specifically has the potential to be the biggest in history, with stars such as Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and others on the market.
Though Durant and Irving were the number two and one overall picks, respectively, the rest of this free agent class are a crop of underdogs, players who were not widely expected to be as successful as they are today. Jimmy Butler is the face of this underdog class.
Lock in like Butler
Butler’s father left the family when he was an infant. After his mother threw him out of the house, he spent the next few years bouncing from home to home, and after not getting recruited out of high school, he chose to attend Tyler Junior College in TX.
The wake-up call from his mother had a lasting effect on Butler. Still, he saw the importance in it so many years later. Butler said in an interview back in 2015:
“I don’t hold grudges. I still talk to my family. My mom. My father. We love each other. That’s never going to change.”
This level of maturity and life experience is emblematic of Butler’s journey. It’s one that got him an athletic scholarship to attend Marquette University and a No. 30 draft pick from the Chicago Bulls in 2011.
Still, 30th picks do not often end up in the position that Butler finds himself in today.
Butler was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers last season, after essentially staging a mutiny in Minnesota. His fiery attitude has “caused tension” on all three teams he has been on, but these problems stem from his unimpeded desire to win. If he feels his teammates are not working as hard as him, he is going to let them know it.
Many wondered if Jimmy’s overzealous drive would affect his money in the 2019 NBA Offseason. Could a player that’s been labeled as a locker room disturbance be offered the max contract?
Instead, Butler’s fire proved vital to the 76ers’ playoff run. Butler controlled the ball at the end of games and proved himself to be a leader, especially for the young team.
For sure, Butler is going to receive the max contract this offseason, with many teams interested in him. Coming from such humble beginnings, no one can say he doesn’t deserve it.
Kawhi not go hard?
Remember the laugh heard ’round the world, at Kawhi Leonard’s Toronto Raptors introductory press conference?
This fun guy is now the reigning NBA Finals Champion and MVP. Similar to how quickly fans have forgotten his refusal to play for the San Antonio Spurs two seasons ago over a dispute to the severity of his injury, recent fans may have forgotten that Leonard was not widely expected to reach these great heights when he was drafted.
Leonard was drafted 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers in 2011 and immediately traded to the San Antonio Spurs.
Considered a four-star recruit coming out of high school, and attending San Diego State University (not exactly Duke, UNC, or Kentucky), Leonard was seen as a defensive specialist, but also as a bit of a project.
No one outside of the Leonard family could have predicted on draft night that he would now be regarded as one of the top two players in basketball. Leonard won Finals MVP in 2014 when he made life difficult for Lebron James and the Miami Heat en route to the Spurs’ fifth championship in franchise history.
Fast forward five years and the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors behind Leonard and his second Finals MVP. He has now dismantled two NBA dynasties, and if you want to throw in the Spurs because he forced his way out, I’m not going to argue; call it three.
Every single team in the league would pay the max amount of money to get Leonard on their team right now. For a 15th overall pick and a man that two years ago was blasted for refusing to play, solely because he believed he knew his body better than team doctors, that is not too bad.
Finish up like Klay
Klay Thompson is the son of former Los Angeles Lakers player Mychal Thompson. Klay attended Washington State University, staying for three years before he was drafted 11th overall by the Golden State Warriors.
In 2012, The Warriors traded their star Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks, creating space for Thompson to become a starter alongside Steph Curry. Though the Warriors’ dominance over the past 5 years would make this seem asinine, this trade was not popular among faithful Warriors fans.
One doesn’t have to look any further than this video to see the limited expectations fans had for Thompson. Like Butler and Leonard, he was not a ready-made star coming out of college.
Klay Thompson is widely regarded as one of the top shooters of all time. He is a fantastic defender and has a knack for coming up clutch in big games. Thompson is the perfect compliment to Steph Curry and makes Steph’s job a whole lot easier by guarding the other team’s best perimeter player every night.
It is not hyperbole to say that without Thompson, the Warriors would not have won their three championships over the past five years.
Thompson tore his ACL in game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals. After heading into the locker room, he returned to the court to knock down both free throws, and beg head coach Steve Kerr to stay in the game.
Klay Thompson has the heart of a champion. He is poised to get a max contract from the Warriors in the 2019 NBA offseason, and he is fully deserving. When his shot is hitting, he is on fire, and when he’s on fire, I don’t know if there is a single player today I would rather have on my team.
Butler, Leonard, and Thompson make up a trio of athletes just as hardworking as they are talented. Whether overcoming insurmountable odds or just rising to heights unforeseen, these three provide a blueprint for up-and-coming athletes on how to become a star.
With these three 2011 draft picks at the top of the board in free agency, and other underdogs right behind like Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton, this summer is going to be a lot of fun.
Butler, Leonard, and Thompson all deserve their money the 2019 NBA offseason, and incoming players should look no further than these three for how to get their own.