This summer was a summer of change for the Chicago Bulls. After failing to reach the playoffs last season, Gar Forman and John Paxson realized that the previous era – the Derrick Rose/Joakim Noah era ushered in by Tom Thibodeau – had to end and the Bulls had to make bold moves to remain relevant in the National Basketball Association. The Bulls shocked the world by trading Derrick Rose and Justin Holiday to the Knicks for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, and young Jerian Grant. Many Bulls fans were shocked and outraged that the hometown hero, the franchise cornerstone of the Chicago Bulls, and former MVP would be traded for what many perceived as a lopsided trade in favor of the Knicks. The reality was Derrick Rose was no longer MVP Derrick Rose and hadn’t been for four years, was an expiring contract, and this trade wasn’t that bad for the Bulls.
With the franchise in rebooting mode, rumblings started about Jimmy Butler and a potential trade to Boston or Minnesota. The Bulls wisely declined and decided to make Jimmy Butler the franchise cornerstone. Then they acquired Rondo and Wade and this Bulls seemed much more promising and exciting then it when the Bulls moved Rose for Lopez and Grant. The lingering question over the Bulls franchise was: Can Jimmy Butler be a franchise player?
If you’ve followed my writing or on Twitter for several years, you will undoubtedly know I am the biggest Jimmy Butler supporter. Even in the beginning when he flourished for half a season, I had Twitter arguments telling people, “Give him time. Don’t rush and trade him and Joakim Noah for LaMarcus Aldridge. He has potential.” Last season, I sounded like a broken record. I was preaching that the Bulls needed to move on from Derrick Rose and give the reigns to Jimmy Butler. He averaged 27 points per game, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists in 11 games without Derrick Rose last year. By the way, the Bulls were 9-2 in those 11 games. There were small glimpses that Jimmy Butler COULD be that guy. He has a crazy work ethic, he’s insanely competitive. Those kinds of guys usually make it in the NBA. Was Butler going to be different?
Enter this season. Fans began labeling this Dwyane Wade‘s team and Wade kept refuting it and repeatedly saying it was Jimmy Butler’s team. Butler had a nice Olympic tournament, bringing home a gold medal, and playing a key role off the bench for Team USA. More importantly, he got to practice and watch other great players like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and Klay Thompson prepare every day and learn from their habits. He also got to compete against them in practice and he was able to come into this NBA season in shape and ready to play. We’ve seen players like Charles Barkley, Derrick Rose, and others get an Olympic bump and have a fantastic season following their Olympic experience. Would Butler be different? Did this really benefit him?
The early results are positive. Butler is currently averaging 24.2 points per game, 6.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and shooting 47% from the field and 45% from three. He’s having an amazing season. Here’s the complete list of players this season that are averaging 24/5/4/1.5: Jimmy Butler…and Kevin Durant. That’s the complete list. Butler also has a nice 28.0 PER. For the first time in his career, he’s leading the team in USG% (tied with Wade at 26.6%) after finishing 3rd – THIRD – last year behind Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol. Butler is getting the opportunity to be the franchise and he’s taking advantage of it. He’s currently 20th in the entire NBA in fourth quarter scoring per NBA.com/stats. He is proving himself as the franchise guy.
And the Bulls are better off for it. I understand that D-Rose was Chicago and he was from there and did great things for the city, as did Joakim Noah, but a change was needed and the Bulls made the correct decision. There are still doubters out there on Jimmy Butler and people that want to trade him for Wiggins, LaVine, etc. to the Timberwolves (which is almost 100% off the table with how Wiggins and LaVine have played), but the Bulls have a franchise player and a guy who is still getting better and plays both ends. The Bulls are seeing the results: They’re currently 7th in Offensive Rating and 8th in Defensive Rating after finishing 23rd and 15th respectively last season. The Bulls’ success hinges on Jimmy Butler and his ability as the franchise. So far, so good. It’s early, but I’m betting he won’t be slowing down any time soon.
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6