After last nights victory over the elusive Charlotte Bobcats and the return of starting small forward Luol Deng the fans of the Chicago Bulls had a lot to be happy about. But with Deng’s return comes the question that has to be asked: will Jimmy Butler’s minutes increase due to his great performance last night as well as in the entirety of Deng’s absence? The answer should simply be yes.
Before Deng went down with a pulled hamstring he led the league in minutes per game with a little under 42 minutes per contest. Normally his injury would have spelled the end for the Bulls who are currently ranked 3rd in the Eastern Conference. But thanks to the impact that Butler has had in his stead the Bulls went 3-2 in the five games he started. In those five games he averaged just over 14 points and just fewer than eight rebounds. Those numbers would constitute a starting position on some teams and while the Bulls are not one of them they should still reward Butler for his performance.
Deng was selected to this year’s All-Star Game and he has also become the cornerstone of this team in Derrick Rose’s absence. Both of these point to one thing: slightly reduced minutes for Deng and increased minutes for Butler. If Chicago is to have a legitimate shot in the playoffs they will need everyone not just healthy but fresh. If Deng comes into the playoffs sputtering and running on fumes then they won’t get past the first round. That’s where Butler comes in; his presence can help in reducing Deng’s minutes per game in good faith, knowing that he can hold his own both defensively and offensively.
We have seen Butler shut down the best of them; from Kobe Bryant, to Rudy Gay, Paul Pierce, and Tayshaun Prince. His defensive prowess doesn’t just fit well with the Bulls, it can be said that it is the main reason the Bulls are doing so well. They succeed on defense and thus succeed on offense. With Butler in the mix for heavy minutes the Bulls are guaranteed a lock-down defender (much like Deng) and an offensive weapon who has improved dramatically the more his minutes go up.
So if you can rest shave a few minutes off from your starters and give them to his back-up to ensure both the health of the starter and the continuing maturation of the back up why wouldn’t you? Deng could use a slight decline in minutes and Butler can prosper with more minutes. The Bulls will succeed both ways because they will have a solid and productive player on the court at all times. It isn’t rocket science to understand that bodies break down and if Chicago has the opportunity to ensure Deng’s doesn’t then Butler should get more minutes per game.
With the All-Star game coming up the Bulls should think about implementing this soon seeing as Deng won’t need to play as many minutes the closer the All-Star weekend gets. Butler was given a golden opportunity when Deng was done and he took advantage of it. Let’s hope that his hard work pays off.