Jan 30, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) dunks during the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Butler Proving Worthy of Larger Role, Shows it in Win Over Milwaukee Bucks

Jimmy Butler continues to shine, even as Luol Deng has returned to the starting lineup and after being excluded from All-Star Weekend. He’s averaging 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds to go along with 2 assists and a steal in his last 8 games, and Tom Thibodeau has shown enough trust in him to start playing him alongside Deng late in games.

After barely being able to get off the bench last season — and struggling with consistency when he did play — Butler has established himself as an excellent defender, elite offensive rebounder and above-average scorer, despite lacking the traditional hallmarks of a scorer.

While it’s probably premature to anoint him the Bulls’ shooting guard of the future, or start speculating about whether the front office would be willing to see Deng walk when his contract is up in 2014 because Jimmy is waiting in the wings, Butler’s emergence means that even as the Bulls trade Rip Hamilton — which will definitely happen before the trade deadline — they won’t be left without options at the two.

Butler provided one of the highlights of the Bulls 104-88 win over the Milwaukee Bucks last night when he threw down a dunk off a lob from Deng — watch his face as he hangs from the rim, he just looks bored with it all — and finished with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals on 8/12 shooting. Rip Hamilton, meanwhile, had 10 points and 3 assists on 4/11 from the field.

I’ll just leave it at that.

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