Coming into the 2012-2013 NBA season, not many people had Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler on their radar. Even after Butler played in all 82 games for the Bulls, you could argue that he still wasn’t getting a lot of attention from the masses coming into the 2013 NBA Playoffs. He made sure that it didn’t stay that way.
In 12 postseason games, Butler emerged as a force at times for the Bulls. He averaged 13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 40.8 minutes per game and shot 43.5 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from three. Though he struggled in several games, he also looked like a budding star in others, which is about what you would expect from a young player playing big minutes in the playoffs for the first time.
In the regular season Butler didn’t see near 40 minutes per game, but he was a solid contributor for the Bulls. He averaged 8.6 points, four boards, 1.4 assists and one steal in 26 minutes per game. He also put up relatively efficient shooting numbers, converting on 46.7 percent of his attempts and 38.1 percent of his three-point attempts.
With the performance that Butler put in just his second NBA season last year, it has a ton of people wondering what’s next for Butler. With Derrick Rose returning to the floor, there are likely to be less offensive possessions coming Butler’s way. However, Rose will also help create opportunities on the wing for Butler with his driving ability. There is also Butler’s defensive prowess that has to be factored in as well. So, what can we expect from Butler this season?
Defensively, here’s what we know about Butler: he’s possibly one of the best young wing defenders in the league. Last season, including the playoffs, Butler was the 29th best defender in the league in terms of points per possession, allowing just 0.76 points per. Moreover, he held opponents to just 36.8 percent shooting and forced a turnover of 12.6 percent of plays run at him.
There’s no denying Butler’s impact on the defensive end, but it’s his surprising soundness on the offensive end that really should have people salivating. Butler averaged 1.02 points per possession last season, the 39th best rate in the league. That was largely due to his ability to shoot the long-ball, but it’s still impressive from such a young player.
However, there are still some shortcomings from Butler. Though he averaged just one turnover per 36 minutes last season, he still showed some issues as a passer. There were a lot of times, especially against swarming defenses and when defenses collapse in the post, when Butler would force passes or wait too long to make passes and still throw them. This off-season Butler needs to work on his decision-making in the passing game, as well as his passing as a whole.
Another aspect of Butler’s game that needs to improve is his shot-selection. Though he showed a great ability attacking the rim and a solid efficiency from long-range, the results were quite different in his mid-range game. Butler took 164 shots from 8-24 feet last season and converted on just 54 of them, good for only 32.9 percent efficiency. Considering that 32 percent of his shot attempts last season came from that range, he should really look to attack the rim or knock down outside jumpers unless he works on his mid-range game.
The last thing that will be interesting to see with Butler is how he plays with Rose on the floor. As mentioned, Rose’s dribble-penetration will create open opportunities from deep for Butler. Last season on spot-up plays for Butler, he did shoot 38.4 percent from three, but shot just 40 percent from the floor. He also averaged 1.04 points per possession, just 111th in the league. He’s going to need to become a more efficient, as well as proficient, spot-up threat with Rose on the floor.
There’s no doubt that the 23-year-old Butler has the makings of a big-time player and could be the complimentary star to Rose on this Bulls team. However, there are still some holes in his game that he has to improve on. If he continues to get better, then Butler and Chicago will really have something cooking.