With Derrick Rose back, many Chicago Bulls fans and analysts alike think he’ll be the key to a deep playoff run. While Rose will play a big role on this year’s Bulls team, there is another player who means even more to this team’s championship hopes.
So Many Options
What makes this year’s Chicago Bulls team so dangerous this season is that they have multiple players who can play a key role in this team’s potential success. The offseason addition of Pau Gasol will surely solidify the team’s front court and bring some added scoring and experience to the group. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah is one of the anchors in Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system. Taj Gibson can come off the bench and dominate a game as if he were starting. The only person missing from that group though is Jimmy Butler, who will end up being the difference maker for this year’s Bulls team.
Defense Wins Championships
If it were up to head coach Tom Thibdoeau, basketball wouldn’t even involve offense. Since becoming the coach of the Bulls in 2010, a Tom Thibodeau-coached team has never ranked worse than sixth in the league in defensive rating. When he initially came to Chicago, Thibs had veteran forward Luol Deng to lean on as his defensive anchor. Since Deng’s departure in the middle of last season, Jimmy Butler has taken up that role.
Playing almost 39 minutes per game last season, Butler had the difficult task of defending the opposing team’s best player on a nightly basis. With LeBron James back in the division, it will be critical that the Butler continue his defensive dominance in the league.
While Joakim Noah defends the paint, Butler will be the one keeping things in-check are the perimeter. Between the two of them, it will be very hard for any team to get off a good shot, even LeBron James.
Jimmy Butler struggled last season to produce offensively as he battled through multiple injuries early in the year. While he’s never been known as an offensive threat, Butler was still able to post a career-high 13.1 PPG last season on 39.7% shooting from the field, by far the lowest shooting percentage of his career. This can only mean good things this year for Butler as it is assumed he will be taking higher percentage shots with Derrick Rose back on the court.
Jimmy doesn’t need to be a consistent 20-point score for this Bulls team. What the Bulls will need out of him though is a somewhat reliable three-point shooter. After spending the summer working on his game rather than rehabbing, expect Butler’s offensive numbers to go up.
The Running Man
Everyone knows Tom Thibodeau has an issue with playing his guys big minutes, and all of that starts with Butler. At 38.7 minutes per game last season, Thibodeau basically ran Butler into the ground. While he is only 25 years old, Butler minutes are anything but easy. Like many other players on the Bulls roster, Thibodeau needs to tone the minute count down if he wants his players healthy for postseason.
Over his three years in the league, Butler has only dealt with major injuries once, which was last season. He only appeared in 67 games and was clearly not 100% healthy throughout any part of the season. If Thibodeau wants to rely on Butler defensively again this year, he needs to watch his minutes.
Jimmy is the X Factor
If the Chicago Bulls want to compete for an NBA title Jimmy Butler needs to play, and play well. Unlike last season though where Butler was relied upon to create his own shot offensively, he will have multiple other players that will also be commanding opposing team’s attention. Butler’s biggest task will once again be defense, especially when it comes to guarding some of the NBA’s best. Offensively then, all Butler needs to do is be able to knock down a shot or two from behind the arc.
With a possible contract extension coming his way later this month, this is sure to be the best season of Butler’s career.
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