None in particular should miscount the capabilities of players who arrive in the NBA. Professional athletes simply either adapt within the lines, or perish between them. Chicago Bulls’ All-Star Shooting Guard Jimmy Butler has come very distant way from where he was at five-years ago — at Marquette University.
Through 38 games in the 2016-17 season, Butler has produced some absurd across-the-board averages of 25.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per-game. It’s been a smooth transition to a full-time Small Forward role, following the signings of former Miami Heat anomolly Dwyane Wade, and former Sacramento Kings PG Rajon Rondo.
Even within such a compact “Three-Guard” lineup beside Wade and Rondo, the younger and more ravenous Butler has demonstrated some new traits that he wasn’t quite able to display in seasons prior — one of them is finally being “The Man” in the Windy City:
Referring back to the modern-era, Butler’s playing some of the best basketball in Chicago since Bulls legend Michael Jordan graced the court. Let’s not neglect Butler’s historic 40-point half that surpassed Jordan for most-ever, dating back to early-January of last season. He already has three fourty-point games this year, and you can also include a 52-point (15-24 FG, 21-22 FT) performance last Monday, to come away with a 118-111 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
Butler has proven this year, that not only should his name be amongst most of the league’s top wing-players, but perhaps the entire NBA. He’s stepped up, and has taken a “superstar” approach to the game.
But however, “superstar” may not be a proper term to define Jimmy’s dominance. He may more than likely never will, and here’s why.
BUTLER IS STILL AVERAGE FROM AN EFFICENCY PERSPECTIVE, BUT HAS IMPROVED.
With a career-most 17.1 shot-attempts per-game, Jimmy Butler has sustained a reasonable 45% field-goal percentage. However, there hasn’t been much of an uptick for his efficiency. With a career average of 44% shooting, it doesn’t help that Butler still struggles from crucial areas on the court.
On shots within three-feet of the basket, in which has been his bread-and-butter, Butler had a strong percentage of 67% during the 2015-16 season from that range. This year however, it’s fallen off to just 58%. Most of his plays that were ran for him during his earlier years was when former Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau was still around. Coach Thibodeau prioritized Butler to cut off of simple pin-down/backdoor screens, leading to easy looks, and such a high percentage.
Although we do have to remember that when Butler came into the league, his go-to offense was moving without the ball. When we talk about a player being a franchise cornerstone, or more simply, “The Man” this means more shots, and he’s seen his Usage Rate (27.6 this season) gradually increase in the process.
But get this: In 2012-13, nearly 40% of Butler’s made field-goals were done inside. Now? Just under 27%.
I’ll give credit where credit is due, though. Jimmy has made strides. He shot 36% on shots from within 3-10 feet in 2015-16, and has upped that percentage to 50% in 2016-17. And as for shots within 10-16 feet, he also shot 36% in 2015-16, having it now increased to 43%.
Oddly enough, he’s shooting 52% on corner-threes this year. Not that he takes very many.
The only area where one could truly say Jimmy has developed into a “superstar” is his efficiency from the free-throw line, and how often he’s getting there. Amongst the league leaders, Butler’s currently third in the NBA in free-throw attempts at 364, and is shooting nearly 88% from the charity stripe.
Although as he’s already approaching his peak as a player, to high-stool Jimmy into a category he hasn’t necessarily proved himself to be in, doesn’t sit too-well with me.
We observe San Antonio Spurs Forward Kawhi Leonard — someone basketball fans typically compare Butler to, he’s proven that even though San Antonio has some of the best/wisest talent in the league, he remains not just their superstar, but “A” superstar.
This also isn’t to take away from what Butler has around him, but even when a shell of former MVP Derrick Rose was still in Chicago, there wasn’t many moments where Jimmy would just say “Give me the ball, I’m taking over!”
I’ll clean this up for you. Jimmy is putting up borderline superstar numbers, but is he a player that everyone would want as their first-option on their aligned totem pole? Chicago hasn’t been the team to make you drop everything you’re doing and watch closely this season, and until Butler can put up these same averages on a more cohesive roster, it’s a must that we omit him from this conversation.
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