Jimmy Butler - A Superstar emerges

Published by Axel on 20th November - 00:40 (CET)
"I don't like the look of you. You gotta go". Those were the words a 13-year-old Jimmy Butler received from his mother before being kicked out of his home to make it on his own.

At the time Butler attended Tomball High School in Texas. Another young man who attended the very same school was Jordan Leslie, current wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. Leslie noticed Butler and challenged him to a three point shooting contest. The two quickly became friends and Butler began staying over at Leslie's house. After a few weeks the family took him in, ending Butlers week-to-week quest to find a place to sleep. Butler then moved on to play for Marquette University in Milwaukee. Through his three years in college Butler averaged 12.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.4 blocks per game. Good, but still not good enough to draw the attention from a whole lot of NBA teams.

"It's taught me that anything is possible. My whole life, people have doubted me. My mom did. People told me in high school I'm too short and not fast enough to play basketball. They didn't know my story. Because if they did, they'd know that anything is possible. Who would've thought that a small-town kid would become a halfway decent player in college and now has a chance to be drafted in the NBA? That's my chip. That's what motivates me. I know I can overcome anything if I just take everything one day [at a] time."

On June 23, 2011, Chicago Bulls selected Butler with the 30th and very last pick of the first round in the 2011 NBA draft. Playing behind Luol Deng who led the NBA in minutes during Butler's rookie season, he only got to play 42 games, averaging 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 8.5 minutes per game.
As Butler showed a lot of promise on the defensive end and Deng again led the league in minutes in 2012/13, Butler was moved to play shooting guard and improved his numbers to 8.6 points 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.4 blocks in 26 minutes per game while shooting .467 from the field and .381 from deep.

The start of the year 2014 was unusually cold in Chicago. Derrick Rose was still down and the Bulls sat at a 14 - 18 record. On January 7, 2014, Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum who was waived to provide relief from paying the luxury tax. As Bulls' then head coach Tom Thibodeau is missing the word "tanking" from his vocabulary he played Jimmy Butler enough to lead the league in minutes per game instead. The Bulls ended up with a surprisingly good 48-34 record as Butler averaged 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1,9 steals and 0.5 blocks per game and got awarded with a spot on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team.

Even though the pick of Butler more and more seemed like a real hit, it wasn't until his fourth season in the NBA he emerged as a true star. We already knew about the relentless defense he would bring each night but the offensive improvement shown in 2014/15 was undeniable. Butler again led the league in minutes per game and bumped his numbers to a team high 20.0 points per game to go along with 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals while shooting .462 from the field and .378 on threes. At the end of the season Butler got awarded with another spot on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team as well as being selected to the All-Star team and winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

2015/16 saw Butler averaging about the same numbers with the exception of upping his assist numbers to 4.8 assists per game, much thanks to a great offensive two-man-game between Butler and Pau Gasol. However, placing top 3 in minutes per game with an increased work load on offense, Butler understandably had to take a step back on the defensive end, threatening his status as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.

Before this season started there were a lot of Bulls fans worried that the number of isolations by Butler would slow down the pace of Fred Hoiberg's system and again hamper his defensive abilities. True or false, I think most of us agree that if Jimmy can sustain this level of play, by all means - play as much iso as you feel like. Butler's defense has been sound. He's shutting down the opponents best player left to right, with Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward as his most recent victim. With Jimmy nailed onto him, Hayward had his worst performance of the year, only making three of his 15 attempts for 8 points. With Butler's defense back and a better offensive game than ever, the Chicago Bulls' swingman is resembling something more than just an All-Star for each and every game that he plays.

He's currently averaging 24.2 points, 4.2 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game over the season. This while shooting a very impressive 48% from the field and 45% from deep. A lot of his points have been generated from the line as Butler is one of few players in the league who has an ability to get to the line at will. He's currently averaging 8.9 free throw attempts per game, making a career high 89% of those shots. "Only" playing 34.6 minutes per game makes his per 36 minutes-stats better than ever with quite a margin and his advanced stats are something else. Jimmy ranks 3rd in the league in Real Plus-Minus, 5th in Box Plus/Minus and Value Over Replacement Player, 2nd in Offensive Win Shares and 3rd in overall Win Shares. He also ranks 8th in Player Efficiency Rating and 16th in True Shooting Percentage. During his last six games Butler averages 27.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game while shooting 47.2% from the field and 43% on threes.

There is absolutely no one - including Butler himself - who saw this coming five years ago when he was drafted. There were frequent questions this summer among Bulls fans who wondered if Butler or Wade would be the one with the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Butler have without doubt answered those questions.

"Jimmy 'G' Buckets, the G stands for Gets"

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