From the last pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft, to being a key piece for the Chicago Bulls franchise; Jimmy Butler has seen it all.
The former Marquette guard has exceeded expectations for the Bulls, and should now be expecting a contract extension this summer. Butler this year is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists for Chicago; who find themselves fourth in the Eastern Conference without superstar Derrick Rose.
The third year guard has a team option for the 14-15 season at just above two million dollars. Furthermore, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau believes Butler is worth every penny in a possible contract extension.
“His demeanor is terrific,” said Thibodeau. “There are plays in which he defends as well as you can defend and they make (a shot). He comes right back and does it over and over again. When you can make a scorer work for his points, that’s all you can ask. And then to carry over what he does offensively, to run the floor, move without the ball, get into pick-and-roll, to post, we’re asking a lot. And he’s playing at a very high level.”
Earlier in the year, Thibodeau had Butler play a franchise-high 60 minutes in a game. Butler, who played in all 82 games last year, has proven that he can remain durable during a whole season of Thibodeau’s rugged style of play. Not only is the promising guard durable, he also plays exceptional defense, something that the Bulls head coach preaches daily.
“That’s the great value of Jimmy, he never gets discouraged. He’s going to keep battling. … Jimmy’s tough. He’s tough.”
During the recent Bulls home-stand, in which Chicago went 3-3, Butler had to guard exceptional scorers like Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, James Harden, and LeBron James; this isn’t the end of the job for Butler yet though. Assuming Chicago moves on to the second round. The Bulls dynamic guard will be assigned to guard LeBron James or Indiana’s breakout star Paul George in a seven game series. Butler seems to be up to the challenge however, he is averaging 2.52 steals per 48 minutes; which is good enough for 10th in the NBA.
While Butler’s defensive skill set is remarkable, he is still struggling to find his shot. The third year veteran is shooting a poor %.390 from the field, the worst shooting percentage of his career so far. Butler excels when he is driving to the rim and finishing or getting to the foul line. Chicago averages 23.4 free throw attempts per game, 14th in the league, something that Butler could help improve. He has been settling for mid-range jump shots, especially in traffic. However, on the positive side, the combo guard averages 3.4 catch-and-shoots per game, with his shooting percentage of those to be 56.4 percent; higher than legendary scorer Dirk Nowitzki (56.3).
It will be interesting to see what kind of money Butler would be expecting if he does indeed ask for a contract extension. With money being tight, the Bulls have other needs to address as well. Should they amnesty Carlos Boozer? Will D.J Augustin re-sign for cheap? What about Carmelo Anthony and the free agency of 2014? Depending on the salary cap problem, I would expect Butler to get around six to eight million per year in a multi-year deal.
While Jimmy Butler’s offensive game is still raw to say the least, he is making great strides to become a cornerstone for the future of the Chicago Bulls.
Follow Mike Albrecht on Twitter: @MikeAlbrechtt