After having a breakthrough season last year, there were higher expectations for Jimmy Butler. He joined the starting lineup as the starting shooting guard for the 2013-14 season and thrived defensively; however, on the offensive end, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
Pre All-Star Break
To open the season, Butler scored 20 points (6-12 FG, 2-4 3PT, 6-7 FT), grabbed three rebounds, dished out three assists and tied his career-high five steals. From there, his shooting fluctuated for the next couple of games while he remained consistent with his defensive prowess.
In the ninth game of the season, though, Butler suffered a turf toe injury in the Chicago Bulls’ 86-81 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 18. The injury caused him to miss the next 11 games. Butler made his return on Dec. 13 for the Bulls’ 91-90 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
He didn’t ease his way back into playing, but rather just picked up right where he left off by playing 36:35. His shooting struggles remained, though. Despite that, Butler was still able to consistently score in double figures, as he only failed to do so nine times prior to All-Star weekend.
Overall, in 39 games, Butler averaged 12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.0 steals in 37.0 minutes of playing time. He also shot 37.9 percent from the field , 27.4 percent on 3-pointers and 78.7 percent on free throws.
Post All-Star Break
Butler’s minutes increased a little to 41.0 minutes per game, as this was also the time head coach Tom Thibodeau used more of a seven-man rotation. His scoring average also increased to 14.1 points, but the best improvement was Butler’s increase in his field goal percentage.
Over the course of 28 games, Butler shot 42.0 percent from the field. There were still some instances where Butler struggled with his shot, but the struggles weren’t as consistent. Unfortunately, he still had massive troubles with his three-point shot, as he shot 29.5 percent.
As for defense, it was still Butler’s strong suit. His averaged slightly less steals at 1.8, but even that is still a great number.
Despite another increase in playing time (Butler averaged 43.6 minutes per game), Butler was unable to increase his productivity. His scoring decreased to 13.6 points per game, his field goal percentage went back down to 38.6 percent, and even his steals took a hit at 1.2 per game. Technically, Butler did improve his three-point field goal percentage to 30.0 percent, but that really isn’t much of a difference.
Regardless of all that, Butler still managed to come in second in total points for the postseason behind Taj Gibson. He also had the second highest point average, so while the extra playing time didn’t quite result in an increase in productivity, Butler was still able to act as one of Chicago’s most productive players. He just wasn’t as efficient as one would hope.
Butler scored a season-high 26 points to led the Bulls to a 95-91 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 30. He shot 60 percent from the field on 10 attempts, went 2-for-3 from behind the arc and made 12-of-14 free throws. He also added four rebounds and two assists.
One of Butler’s worst scoring nights came during Chicago’s 83-82 loss to the Orlando Magic on Dec. 16. Although he only played 27:30, he still managed to attempt 11 shots, but he was only able to connect on one of them.
Butler really excelled defensively this past season. He even made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for the first time in his career. His 1.90 steals per game were also ranked fourth best among all players in the league. If he were be graded solely on his defense, there’s no doubt he’d get an A; however, that’s not the case. His offense needs to be considered, and it was, at best, decent. For the regular season, Butler shot 39.7 percent from the field and 28.3 percent on 3-pointers, and for a starting shooting guard, that’s not exactly going to cut it.
Fortunately, though, Butler was still able to increase his productivity from last season. His regular season average of 13.1 points bested out the 8.6 of the 2012-13 campaign. This increase should have been expected, though, since he also went from 26.0 minutes per game to 38.7 minutes per game.
All in all, Butler had a good season. He did an excellent job on the defensive end and was a productive offensive player. He just needs to work on becoming an efficient one as well.
Final Grade: B-