One of the coolest things in this sport we love is to watch players develop before our eyes. This past Bulls season we had the pleasure of watching Jimmy Butler go from a guy that Coach Tom Thibodeau would use to steal minutes for Deng, to a guy that started 20 games. His numbers improved dramatically along with his minutes. The kid worked hard in the off season to improve his jump shot, and was rewarded with the opportunity to showcase that hard work. As a result, Butler saw his shooting percentage rise 62 percentage points! He was able to prove himself as a more than capable defender, as well as a guy who can play both the Small Forward position as well as Shooting Guard. He’s showed he’s a very coachable player for the sometimes over demanding Coach Thibs.
Thankfully Butler didn’t have any problem adjusting to Thibs all or nothing approach. He was no stranger to this style of basketball playing for Buzz Williams at Marquette, another very demanding Coach. In Chicago you can make a name for yourself by simply giving it all you got and making the most of your time on the court, Butler did just that! Butler has what Hawk Harrelson calls, t.w.t.w. (the will to win) in his DNA.
In 26 minutes Jimmy Butler averaged 8.6 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist. A modest stat line but what’s impressive is his improvement across the board. As I mentioned above, his FG percentage improved 62 points up to 46 percent. His three point percentage up to 38 percent from 18 percent just a year ago! Also his FT percentage improved 35 points up to .803 percent. Now some of this has to do with increased playing time, but I believe most of this improvement was made in the off season in the gym. Not only did he raise his game on the offensive side of the ball, he brought it on the defensive side also. He drew some of the toughest defensive assignments like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James and held his own; also helped shut down Shooting Guards such as Joe Johnson.
When asked by media about starting at Shooting Guard position, Coach Thibs replied: “I don’t see why not.” I’ll take that as a yes.
During mid-April, Jimmy Butler had one of the best games of his career. In an overtime thriller verse the Knicks, Butler put together a 22 point, 14 rebound, 2 assist, 3 steal, and 3 block game! I for one find that impressive considering he was guarding Carmelo Anthony throughout the game. Good thing he has young legs, he played 50 minutes and was still very efficient. Jimmy “Getz Buckets” Butler went 9 for 15 from the field, 2 for 3 from the arc and helped the Bulls end a 13 game win streak by their rival at the United Center in front of a sell-out crowd.
One of the most memorable games of this past season was the victory in game one over the Miami Heat in the playoffs. Butler was a big part of that victory playing the entire 48 minutes and did his part in “getting buckets’. Butler scored 21 points and snatched 14 rebounds. He was also giving lots of effort on defense. With 45 seconds left and the Bulls up 4, LeBron drove the ball on Butler and pulled up over an out-stretched hand of butler only to miss everything. Butler held his own playing against the best individual player in basketball on the big stage. This would make three games in a row Butler played the entire game, and when asked about it he simply said, “It’s all about being tough.”
I for one am a big Jimmy Butler fan. I’m very impressed with the progress he’s made from his rookie year. Chicago Bulls scouts and management deserves some praise for selecting Butler with the last pick of the first round, a steal. However, Butler has more work to do in this off season. He has to improve his ball handing, something he struggles with. He’s been able to find ways to score but needs to find ways to create his own shot by beating his defender of the dribble with some sort of crossover. Butler has the quickness and athleticism, so if he can improve on this, he could be a potential all-star. Until then unfortunately, I can’t see the Bulls as a serious threat to win a title with Butler starting at the two. Rose desperately needs a back court partner that can draw doubles and or beat his man to the basket to get the defenses to collapse. I think Butler will put the work in and improve on this negative aspect of his game. For our enjoyment and for his future, I sure hope he does.
Final grade: A