4. Jimmy Butler & Pau Gasol (2014-15)
Having finally grown into his own, Jimmy Butler makes his second appearance on this list. Teaming up with fellow All-Star Pau Gasol, these two are among a very select few Chicago Bulls duos to have earned All-Star selections in the same season together. These nominations were well deserved, as Gasol underwent a career renaissance in Chicago while Butler was only using this moment as a launchpad for greater things.
Averaging 20 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, this would be the first All-Star selection of Butler’s career as he thrived in a bigger role as the star of the team. No longer lurking in the shadow of an injured Derrick Rose, Jimmy led the NBA with 38.7 minutes played per game, while Gasol averaged an impressive 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game on the back of his signature pick-and-pop
Alongside Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler proved he could be someone for the Chicago Bulls to build around in the 2014-15 season.
Although Rose did rehabilitate his ACL injury and manage to play in excess of 50 games that season, Butler and Gasol were undoubtedly the biggest pieces responsible for Chicago’s success. In his first year with the Bulls, Gasol erased any doubt that this team would falter without Joakim Noah around to anchor the defense.
The Bulls won 50 games and secured the third seed in the Eastern Conference, where they defeated the Bucks in the first round before taking on the Cavaliers in the Conference Semi-Finals. It seemed Chicago would finally manage to banish their demons after defeating LeBron James twice to claim a 2-1 series lead early against Cleveland, but it was naught to be. The Bulls faltered down the stretch and once again fell to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Cavs.
Still, it’s hard not to look back at these times and reminisce over what it felt like to genuinely compete for a championship. For many fans who never witnessed the MJ era, this is all they had. Jimmy Butler may have never brought a championship home to Chicago, but you’d be a fool to think he didn’t do everything in his power to get the job done. Now, all we can hope for is for him to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to Miami this year.