There is a reoccurring theme in the NBA involving players in their third full season. The third season tends to be the year in which at least one player, who made somewhat of a name for themselves during their sophomore campaign, takes the next step in their game and has a breakout year. We have seen it several times in the past, but most recently with Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. After having a solid second season in the league in which he averaged 12 points per game, George improved his game considerably becoming an All-Star as well as being voted the league’s Most Improved Player. George, however, did not start this trend of third year breakout performances as most recently James Harden in 2011-2012 and Kevin Love in 2010-2011 each took their games to the next level in their third year in the league. Thus, the question of who will be next in the line of players to have a breakout year in their third season has come to surface this offseason. The answer to that question is Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler.
Although Butler only averaged 8.6 points in his second NBA season, he has become one of the most important players on Chicago’s roster. Going into last season it was uncertain how much playing time Butler would get as he only averaged just over eight minutes of playing time his rookie year. However, due to hard work and a Bulls team plagued by injuries, Butler cracked his way into the rotation and made the most of his opportunity. Butler ended up starting all 12 of the Chicago’s postseason games logging an average of over 40 minutes played each game. It should also be noted that along with playing a grueling 40 minutes of playoff basketball each game Butler was also responsible for guarding back-to-back MVP LeBron James in the second round of the playoffs. Butler proved last year that he is a key asset to the Bulls and has the potential to become a future star in the league for years to come.
Since the Bulls drafted franchise player Derrick Rose in 2008, they have not been able to find a proper backcourt mate for him. However, Butler very well could be the perfect complement for Rose. Butler showed consistent improvement in his offensive game last year as he averaged 13.3 points per game in the playoffs, which was over four points more than he averaged in the regular season. With Rose back and leading Chicago’s offense Butler could very well see his points per game rise once again this season. With Rose’s tendency to drive to the basket and draw double teams it should make it easier for Butler to find open looks and knock down his shots.
Butler’s defense has never been an issue for him as long as he has been in the NBA. Along with Luol Deng he is called upon to guard the opposing teams’ top scoring threat every night, and if he continues to improve upon and develop his offensive game he has a chance to become one of the best all-around rising stars in the NBA.
There will be some fairly high expectations for Butler entering this season as the Bulls have had such awful luck with shooting guards over the past few seasons, but he will not be expected to be the Chicago’s primary scoring option which should take some pressure off of him. If Butler can continue to play lockdown defense and steadily improve his offensive game, the Bulls very well may have found their starting shooting guard for years to come, something the franchise has been searching for for oh so long. Expect Butler to have a big year in Chicago in 2013-2014 which could even result in him winning the Most Improved Player award.