Chicago Bulls player reviews: Jimmy Butler

Apr 12, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) reacts during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) reacts during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

There’s no telling how the 2016-17 season would’ve went for the Chicago Bulls if not for the play of Jimmy Butler. He’s become one of the league’s best players.

Jimmy Butler: 76 games played (75 starts) | Per game averages: 23.9 points (career high), 6.2 rebounds (career high) and 5.5 assists (career high)

2,809 minutes played (sixth-most in NBA), 585-of-676 at the line (fourth-most makes, third-most attempts in NBA), 143 steals (tied for fourth in NBA), 25.1 player efficiency rating (13th in NBA) and a 122.7 offensive rating (11th in NBA)

Here’s a simple statement that can be made clear about the statuses of both Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls: if Jimmy Butler was elsewhere, the Bulls are a lottery team.

All summer long heading into the 2016-17 season, the mantra from the Bulls front office pairing was to get “younger and more athletic.” Instead, they got older and lacked any real athleticism. Rajon Rondo had about one good month at the end of the year and two excellent playoff performances. Dwyane Wade fractured his elbow and was more liability than asset virtually all season with his defensive performance.

With a revolving door of a rotation put in place by coach Fred Hoiberg, Jimmy Butler carried a less-than-mediocre bunch to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The only two players that had a higher amount of win shares than Butler’s 13.8 this season: James Harden and Rudy Gobert. One player is probably going to win the NBA MVP or finish second and the other could be the All-NBA First Team center this season.

That’s pretty good company to be in, but it gets even better.

More from Bulls History

Butler had a VORP (value over replacement player) of 6.3 this season. The four guys with a higher VORP than Butler: Russell Westbrook (12.4), James Harden (9.0), LeBron James (7.3) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (6.9, which is fairly nice).

You tell me how important Jimmy Butler is to the Chicago Bulls franchise.

Butler had his best year of his career. He was named an All-Star Game starter in his third straight All-Star Game selection. He had five 40+ point games, including two 39-point performances and a career-high 52 points against the Charlotte Hornets on Jan. 2. Along with his best offensive season in his career, Butler had nine games of 10+ rebounds and eight games of 10+ assists.

The Bulls were one of the league’s least enjoyable teams to watch for many, but Butler salvaged such a befuddling season for the organization. Butler wasn’t a perfect player by any means.

There was still the drama between him, Wade and Rondo after a loss that sent social media into a frenzy. There was some bad shot-taking and at times, it appeared that Butler should look to his teammates more to provide a spark. But still, it’s hard to really come down on a guy that averaged basically 24/6/6 with a shooting slash line of 45.5/36.7/86.5 with this team.

(Yeah, this team. The 24th-best 3-point shooting team in the NBA this season.)

Live Feed

4 Teams that should trade for Tyler Herro
4 Teams that should trade for Tyler Herro /

All U Can Heat

  • Grade The Trade: Bucks add two-time All-Star in a deal with rivaling BullsBehind the Buck Pass
  • 4 Teams that need to trade for Hawks' Trae Young immediatelySoaring Down South
  • 3 teams who blew a golden opportunity by not signing Christian WoodFanSided
  • NBA rumors: Trae Young trade buzz, Andre Drummond is a comedian, Wemby and KAT team upFanSided
  • These NBA stars might switch teams sooner rather than laterAll U Can Heat
  • The tricky thing is to gauge what Butler could be moving forward. There’s still a chance he’s not even a Bull going into the 2017-18 season.

    After the exit from the playoffs, Bulls vice president John Paxson didn’t seem fully committed to keeping Butler as the face of the franchise. It sounded like he was more committed to seeing what the “young guys” could do for the Bulls.

    (Spoiler alert, John: they might not be as good as you’re hoping they could be.)

    There’s no telling what’s on the table for the Bulls in terms of trading Butler, who is under an underappreciated contract for a superstar with the rising salary cap. Butler is slated to make under $20 million a year until the end of the 2018-19 season with a cap hold a shade under $30 million in 2020.

    For now, Butler will move in silence during the offseason and continue to work harder than anyone in the room because … well, that’s just his thing. Just ask him. He’ll tell you about it. He attended his exit interview, but didn’t speak with reporters.

    Butler’s future does seem like it’s in the balance in Chicago and that’s not his fault. He’s taken a giant leap since the end of 2014 when he declined a hometown discount from Paxson and Bulls general manager Gar Forman. Nobody really expected this except for Butler and even that’s questionable. That’s how good he’s become.

    Next: Bulls player reviews: Dwyane Wade

    Here’s a simple thought for GarPax heading into next season: Build around Jimmy Butler.