Many are predicting 2013-14 to be the year Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler breaks out, and for good reason.
Butler has been nothing but impressive since he joined the Bulls. He flashed potential and promise in very limited minutes his rookie season. When a rash of injuries devastated the Bulls last season and gave Butler a real opportunity, he truly emerged.
In what was the coming out party for a handful of young, athletic wing players (Paul George & Kawhi Leonard being the others), Butler truly became a difference-maker for the Bulls in last year’s playoffs. A long, athletic 6-foot-7, Butler did a phenomenal job guarding LeBron James in the Eastern semifinals with Chicago’s All-Star defensive stopper Loul Deng unable to play.
Offensively, Butler proved he was already better than anyone expected, showing the ability to score off the dribble and shoot from range. He averaged 15.6 points in five games against the Miami Heat for a Bulls team starved for offense. He became so indispensable to the Bulls during that series that he rested for total of two minutes over the final three games of the series, playing 48, 46, and 48 minutes respectively.
This season, the Bulls will hopefully have a fully healthy squad, but Butler has already proven he deserves to play starters minutes night in and night out.
With Derrick Rose back, Butler will have a lot less pressure on him and will get a lot of open looks from deep, where he shot 38 percent last season. On defense, he and Deng could quite possibly be the best defensive wing tandem in the league, and a perfect counter to Miami’s Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
At only 23 years of age, Butler is still improving. I’m predicting a jump in Butler’s numbers across the board as he becomes one of the most important players for the Bulls this year. How much of a jump, I’m not sure, but certainly enough of one for him to be one of the early front-runners for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award for this upcoming season.