A Ridiculously Early Assessment of Jimmy Butler

by on December 19th, 2010
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Fully acknowledging the fact that Jimmy Butler is 17 games into his career as an NBA player as of Feb. 9, and it being far too early to make an assessment, this writer is proclaiming him a draft day success. Jimmy Butler may not ever become an NBA superstar, but he has the demeanor and basketball mind to make himself a journeyman in the NBA. Butler has had limited minutes (averaged just over seven minutes per game following the Feb. 8 game against the New Orleans Hornets), but benefited from a few early season injuries to Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton. Butler’s biggest game so far is one in which he played a season high 20 minutes during a Feb. 2 win against the New York Knicks. The Bulls bench is very deep, arguably the best in the NBA, meaning generally that playing time for rookies who are still trying to learn the system are limited at best. Yet, Butler has been getting playing time and it’s because in the minutes that he has played, he has earned the trust of his teammates and coach. Butler isn’t playing like a rookie trying to prove himself; he’s playing much smarter by accepting his position on the team. Coach Thibodeau showed his support for the rookie by playing him at the end of a close game, and trusted him to guard one of the premier scorers in the NBA in Carmelo Anthony. Butler seems to have picked up Thibodeau’s defensive system quickly, and is contributing on that end.

Watch his eyes, he’s constantly paying attention to all of the action on the court by keeping his head in a position where he can see his man and the ball at the same time. In doing this, Butler puts himself in a position to have an impact on every play. On offense, he sneaks behind the opposing teams big men to steal away an offensive rebound. On defense, he’s there to help guard an opponent or make the necessary shift. Butler has the mind to play.

Another positive note about Butler is that he doesn’t shy away from contact and makes the hustle plays. So many players take fade-away jumpers or other low percentage shots to avoid taking contact and going up strong. Butler’s ratio of field goal attempts to free throw attempts this year is almost one-to-one (23 field goal attempts to 20 free throw attempts) exemplifies the fearlessness with which he plays. Lots of scoring opportunities from the free throw line is an easy way to win games, particularly for a team that has struggled at times on the offensive end.

Finally, Butler is a player who makes the extra pass. He’s the type of player who is always looking for the open man. Though there are times when could pull up and hit a shot, and in some cases maybe should, he has the right idea of constantly searching the floor for an opportunity. Though I will note that he missed an open Carlos Boozer with about one minute to play in the game against the Knicks, but it happens.

Butler’s minutes have dropped since Deng returned to the lineup, and may decrease further when Hamilton returns from his injury, but for the rookie out of Marquette University, the future is bright. Part of the interest that I have in Jimmy Butler may be his story. Butler overcame personal difficulties at a very early stage in his life, and developed into a smart and modest individual. Look, it’s far too early to make a true assessment, but from the initial data, Jimmy Butler appears to be a great fit with the Chicago Bulls.

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