The Chicago Bulls feel that the window to win an NBA championship is still open, yet their flexibility to bring more quality players to the team is somewhat limited. But upgrading can also be done from within, like the return of Derrick Rose, which can become better than any star free agent signing, and Jimmy Butler becoming a starter and more significant part of the team.
Not that Butler didn’t have a part to play last season. The moment he had to start during the regular season, which happened 20 times, it was obvious the Bulls found themselves a very unique player. He was hardly noticeable during his rookie season, but when he got the chance to start last season, he suddenly showed versatility by playing at shooting guard, small forward and power forward when necessary, amazing athleticism, excellent defense and some great outside shooting (38.1% from beyond the arc), that needs to fall more consistently.
In the playoffs, it was more of the same. Once Luol Deng’s injury prevented him from taking part in the Bulls’ wins over the Nets and in the series against the Heat, Butler barely got a chance to rest, averaging 40.8 minutes a night. He did a decent job on LeBron James while averaging 13.3 points per game, shooting over 40% from three.
This season, he’s already been declared as the team’s starting shooting guard, which means we’ll see a lot more of him, and more will be expected of him on the offensive front, as the Bulls are looking for someone to step up as a shooter, opening up the paint for Noah, Boozer, and hopefully a full-of-hop Derrick Rose. Butler seems to be like the dream guy for fans looking for a humble star-in-the making, not thinking of himself as someone wh0 has made it yet.
I feel like I’m not a starter yet. The season isn’t here yet and I still need to work my tail off for the rest of the offseason, go into training camp, play hard and do what I’m supposed to do. Coach Thibs and the management will do whatever they think it takes to help us win. Whether that means me as a starter or coming off the bench, whatever it may be, I’m comfortable with it. I just want to win games.
The Bulls will practically have a new backcourt next season, with Rose making his comeback, and Butler playing shooting guard, like he did in college with Marquette some of the time. Butler still isn’t better than Luol Deng, but there’s a reason he’s lineup up to be his replacement and next great small forward for the Bulls, and it’s not just his more owner-friendly salary.
Next season, with Butler logging in a huge amount of minutes, we’ll see what he’s truly made of, as he’ll try and avoid hitting the wall that comes with playing more basketball than you ever did before during a season. He isn’t the only ingredient in the championship recipe, and probably not the most important, but the difference between an OK season and a good one if not better might be the difference between another forgettable playoff appearance and dethroning the Heat in the East.
My game’s not perfect in any area, so why stop working on one over another? I’m definitely spending time on my three-point shot, because with Derrick back, teams are going to double team him. So we’ve got to be able to open the floor for him. I’m working on some mid-post work, for when I’m going up against a smaller two guard or small forward. You’ve got to be able to score from every point on the floor. And a lot of ball handing, so I can be the secondary ball handler. That’s also important.