Jimmy Butler is gradually becoming a force for the Chicago Bulls, much to the delight of coach Tom Thibodeau.
In recent games, the second-year player has been getting more minutes since earlier in the season and has given Thibodeau plenty of rewards for his decision. On Saturday, in a 93-76 NBA win over the Atlanta Hawks, Butler, a guard forward, played 46 minutes and had 16 points plus 10 rebounds. He’s been seeing several games with plus 40 minutes.
He didn’t shoot well against the Hawks but had two strong games recently, going 7-of-10 against the Charlotte Bobcats for 19 points and 8-of-12 against Milwaukee Bucks for 18 points. He’s up to 7.2 points per game, dramatically higher than his 2.6 points per game a year ago when he averaged only 8.5 minutes per outing. He’s up to 21.8 minutes per game this season and those minutes are likely to increase if he keeps getting the high percentage shots and plays good defense.
He’s also a key scorer at the end of the game when the pressure is rising.
“Obviously there are a lot of things Jimmy has to improve on,” Thibodeau said. “But he is not afraid of the big moment. He has a lot of courage and toughness. Those characteristics go a long way in this league. He competes on every play. We want him to keep improving and keep studying.
“In this league at the 2 and 3 spots are the primary scorers and tough match-ups. He is taking the challenge and I like the way he is approaching things. He’s never satisfied, he wants to keep improving.”