Jimmy Butler is Really Good

Mar 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) looks to pass the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) looks to pass the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

OK, let’s get two things straight here: 1) Jimmy Butler is one of the best players in the entire NBA and 2) The Chicago Bulls have not (and should not) trade him. There’s plenty of reasons why they shouldn’t and here’s a look at a few of them.

The day the “Jimmy Butler to ____” rumors should’ve ended was the day that Derrick Rose was traded to the New York Knicks.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on The Jump this past Wednesday. “I knew it had to be one of us [Rose or Butler].”

The potential was always high for Rose and Butler to produce, but silly rumors and the simple fact that their games just didn’t mesh well together after Butler became one of the league’s top-tier players, diminished any hope of the duo becoming a true 1-2 punch.

It came as a surprise, but the Bulls did what they had to do and remove the weakest link of the pairing. The Rose trade was best for both sides and it brought clarity as to who the Bulls should build around in the future.

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Yet throughout most of the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft last week, the main headline talks surrounded around the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves attempting to trade for Butler.

At the end of the night, Butler would remain a Bull after a pair of underwhelming offers from the Celtics and Timberwolves.

The No. 3 pick in this past draft (Cal’s Jaylen Brown), the No. 16 pick (France’s Guerschon Yabusele) and a role player from Boston (rumored to be Avery Bradley) or the offer from Minnesota that would’ve been the No. 5 pick (Providence’s Kris Dunn, who the Bulls were high on during the draft process) and Zach LaVine for Butler.

Both of those offers are underwhelming and the Bulls had no business accepting either one of those deals.

Boston didn’t want to part with Jae Crowder, which is understandable, but Butler’s far and away a better player than Crowder. Just ask him.

Minnesota didn’t want to send Andrew Wiggins to his third team in two seasons because of the potential he possesses next to the league’s next big thing: Karl-Anthony Towns.

Jimmy Butler is a top-20 player in the NBA. He’s worth more than two picks and a role player and he’s definitely worth more than a pick and a role player that may or may not turn into a star.

Offensively, Butler’s a weapon of efficiency

Sure, Butler shooting 31.2 percent a year after draining 37.8 percent of his three-point attempts isn’t a good thing, but it’s not like Butler’s jacking up an insane amount of triples. His game isn’t predicated on the outside shot. That’s not his game and he would tell you that himself (like he did in his appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast this summer).

This past season, Butler took 205 total threes, 12 more than the previous season (193) where he became a star and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He took 3.1 attempts per game. You can live with a drop in his three-point percentage with a manageable amount of attempts.

Butler makes his $94 million inside the arc; something Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan attempts to do and will wrongly make more money than Butler because of the cap rise, but I digress.

Only 15 players in the NBA scored more points per game last season than Butler’s 20.9 per contest.

How does he do it?

He does it by doing something Derrick Rose couldn’t do efficiently after the injuries: finish at the rim. The league’s average percentage at the rim last season was 55.5 percent. Butler shot 60 percent on 418 total attempts last season. Those 418 attempts accounted for 40.4 percent of his shots last year.

That’s efficiency; especially factoring in that Butler shot 475 total attempts at the free throw line this season (14th in the NBA) and that’s with Butler missing 15 games with a knee sprain.

(Perspective: In his 2014-15 season, Butler shot 463 free throws in 65 games two seasons ago.)

If a player with Butler’s athleticism can slash and dash through the lane at will and get to the line better than most can, you can work with him being a not-so-great shooter from deep.

That’s what you drafted Doug McDermott, Denzel Valentine and Nikola Mirotic to do, right?

Defensively, Butler’s really the only option that’s not a big

Outside of the newly-acquired Robin Lopez (Robin Lopez, Fred … Robin Lopez) and a questionable, but productive (in limited action) Cristiano Felicio, the Bulls fit the bill of an average defense at best (106.5 defensive rating, 15th in the NBA; 103.1 points given up/game, 16th in the NBA).

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  • E’Twaun Moore was the clear-cut best option at point guard defensively and there’s a chance he won’t return next season.

    Aside from him, when you look at the other point guards and wings, there’s no defensive presence for the Bulls. None.

    Doug McDermott is a historically bad defender early in his NBA career, Tony Snell just isn’t producing on either end of the floor and Mike Dunleavy could be on his way out the door as well and he hardly played last season due to complications with his back.

    It’s unfair to ask Butler to produce at a high level offensively on a nightly basis and then guard the opponent’s best offensive option when those are his relief options defensively.

    If you ever wondered how or why Butler has a top-15 VORP (value above replacement player) in the NBA (3.7), this is a big reason why.

    Butler’s defensive rating was 106, which was just a smudge higher than his 104 rating under Tom Thibodeau two seasons ago. Only Pau Gasol (yes, the same Pau Gasol that guards the pick-and-roll like this) had a lower defensive rating of the Bulls that logged at least 1,100 minutes last season.

    There was a four-way atop the NBA last season in steals per game (2.1). Butler averaged 1.6 steals per contest last year and had a streak of 44 consecutive games with a steal, breaking the franchise mark (pre-1985) set by Scottie Pippen in his MVP-caliber season back in 1994.

    You don’t just trade Jimmy Butler

    Even with the long list of Team USA drop-outs for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio, Jimmy Butler still had a solid chance to make the roster anyway.

    That’s a simple testament to how good he is.

    Next: 5 top attainable free agents for the Bulls to pursue

    Whether you lost respect for Jimmy Butler or you didn’t over this past season, he’s one of the best players in the Association and you don’t just trade him because you think draft picks in a loaded 2017 draft are going to bring you immediate success next season and beyond.

    That’s too much of a risk to take, especially when you already have a top-20 star in the league on a friendly max contract under the old salary cap with numbers rising this summer and in the future.

    The Bulls did the right thing by hanging on to Jimmy Butler and the trade rumors should come to an abrupt halt.