Jimmy Butler may not like being called the “Kobe-Stopper,” but with the way he played last night against the Los Angeles Lakers it may not matter. With starting guard Luol Deng out with an injury, Butler started his third game in a row and effectively held Kobe Bryant to a mere 16 points which is what most of us would consider “stopping,” him. Bryant is averaging 29.2 points per game this season so holding him to 16 is a blessing. Butler’s new moniker may be a little extreme but it does well in pointing out the second year player’s growth as a defensive stud.
In the three games that Deng has been injured the Chicago Bulls have played the Lakers, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Boston Celtics. In all three of these games we have seen Butler cover the prominent scorers like Paul Pierce and Rudy Gay. But this is not the only time we have seen Butler cover big name players; when the Bulls played the Miami Heat it was Butler’s responsibility to cover Dwayne Wade (who scored 22 points on 7-11 shooting.) All this nickname points out is Butler’s impact as a defensive asset and he should embrace it instead of shying away from it.
As Butler continues to grow defensively, his offensive workload has also increased since Deng went down. He is now averaging 38 minutes per game and it is paying off with his contributions of 13.7 points and 6.7 boards per game. It’s nice to see him come into his own and begin to mature into a solid contributor and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Deng isn’t expected to be out long but as long as Butler is holding down the fort I don’t think Chicago fans are going to be panicked.
Chicago faces the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night and if Deng isn’t in the line-up Butler will most likely be tasked with covering either Tayshaun Prince or Kyle Singler.