BUTLERMANIA Running Wild: The Importance of Jimmy Butler


(Originally published in 2013)
I admit it. I’m in.  I’m all on-board for Butlermania: the ascension of Jimmy Butler.  What’s not to love about this kid?  He does what he’s asked, comes in and makes electric plays, is tough, and plays well with the minutes he’s given.  I’m all-in.  On Twitter a few months ago, I called him Scottie Pippen Lite.  He may never develop into the player Scottie was, but he reminds me a lot of him (keep in mind, Scottie Pippen is my favorite player EVER. I modeled my own basketball game after him).  So, it’s easy to see why I’m so on-board with Butlermania.

But some aren’t.  Blogabull.com tweeted that the emergence of Butler was a needed distraction when the Bulls simply dump Rip’s salary. I don’t agree, but it made me realize the entire Bulls Blogosphere isn’t on the Jimmy Butler bandwagon. (Note: Blogabull also said, “The Bulls don’t have any quality wins this year” even when they beat Miami on the road, New York 3 times – twice at Madison Square Garden – Boston in Boston, and blew Atlanta, a playoff team, out of the United Center. Let’s just say I don’t agree.)  Obviously, having this man-crush on Jimmy Butler as of late I feel the need to point out why Jimmy Butler is important to this team.

1) He’s the best athlete on this team: Hands down. Not even close.  Derrick Rose at 100% is probably above him, but anyone else? Nowhere NEAR Jimmy Butler’s athleticism.  As we saw earlier this year against the Clippers, the Bulls need athletes to be able to compete.  Hubie Brown against the Knicks said of Carlos Boozer, “As we know, Boozer has no lift” and used that to lead into a compliment!  We need an athlete like Butler instead of 12 guys with old-man game.

2) Lockdown defense: Luol Deng is a good defender, but sometimes he doesn’t have the speed needed to defend the likes of Kevin Durant or speedy point guards.  With Jimmy Butler, you could bring him in and have him defend a guy like Durant or someone like Chris Paul and shift Deng elsewhere, giving him rest for offense.  In the games against Miami and the Lakers, Butler made Dwyane Wade (surprisingly effective this season, as I thought he was done) look slow and old (his nickname used to be “Flash”) and Kobe simply couldn’t get around him.  Kobe Bryant – the NBA’s leading scorer and one of the top 15 NBA players of all-time – couldn’t top 20 on Butler.  Butler held him to 7 for 22 shooting and 16 points and you know what else?  He only gave him 3 FT attempts.  That’s insane.  Those aren’t the only two examples, but they might be the best ones.  Butler plays tremendous defense and has good speed.  He also positions himself well on defense and challenges every shot.

3) He’s a rebounding beast: Right now, Jimmy averages 3 rebounds a game.  Per 36 minutes, he’d be on pace for 6 per game.  He just has such a freakish vertical that he just grabs rebounds over guys.  It’s awesome to watch.  How many put-back dunks does Jimmy have this year?

4) He’s a smart player: The thing that drives me nuts about Marco Belinelli is that he isn’t smart with the basketball and doesn’t pick his spots.  Butler does. Butler makes good decisions.  It drives me nuts watching Marco plow into a crowd full of defenders and dribble it off his knee. Happens too often.  I like Jimmy’s decision making.  He knows when to be assertive.  He’s a great Thibodeau guy.

5) Underrated scorer: Does anyone realize he averaged 15 ppg his senior year at Marquette?  The kid can score, but he is selective on offense.  He can knock down the mid-range jumper or attack the rim.  His 3pt shot needs work, but he’s only 23.  There’s time for that.

6) Crunch-time: Jimmy plays solid thru 3 quarters…but when the 4th quarter starts, he becomes a different animal.  You look at him and the look in his eye changes.  It’s the same look that I’ve seen Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Derrick Rose have.  It’s that “clutch” gene.  He gets insane.  His game against Memphis was ridiculous.  He completely brought Chicago back from the deficit by making defensive plays, key baskets, getting rebounds until Nate Robinson screwed it up by thinking he’s Derrick Rose.  It was unreal.

I wrote about this in 2011: I called it “The Sweathog Formula”  The premise is easy: The reason the 1970s TV show, “Welcome Back, Kotter” succeeded was because of a particular formula: One star (Travolta), a quality sidekick that brings something to the table (Horshack) + 3rd wheel guy who’s okay with that (Freddy “Boom Boom” Washington) and the filler – the guy who does a little of everything, but isn’t a star. You can rely on him (Epstein). And last, a guy that’s been there before (Kotter – Gabe Kaplan’s character).  Every NBA champion follows this formula (I traced it back to the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, which could really be the 95-96 Bulls).  The Miami Heat lost the 2011 Finals because they didn’t follow that formula.  Until D-Wade realized he was Horshack and not Vinny Barbarino, the Heat weren’t winning a championship.  Look at this Bulls team:

  • Travolta/Barbarino: Derrick Rose (obviously)
  • Horshack: Deng
  • Boom Boom: Boozer or Noah
  • Epstein: Could be Butler, could be Taj Gibson, could be Kirk Hinrich, could be Boozer or Noah
  • Kotter: Tom Thibodeau (NBA championship as an assistant with the Celtics)

For some championship teams, the “Epstein” role was filled by guys like Robert Horry, Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, Tayshaun Prince, Rajon Rondo, Shawn Marion.  There can be multiple guys that fulfill this role.  The Chicago Bulls fit this formula.  Using that formula, it’s easy to see why Jimmy Butler could be an X factor on this team’s championship hopes.

Those are my 6 reasons why I’m on for Butlermania.  I believe he’s the SG of the future for the Chicago Bulls.  And he should be. Hopefully, he’ll start getting more minutes over Marco/Rip and get the chance to (further) prove himself.