Chicago Bulls: Was Thursday Jimmy Butler's Coming-Out Party?

Rich KraetschCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2012

Jimmy Butler had the best game of his young career Thursday
Jimmy Butler had the best game of his young career ThursdayJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler has officially arrived.

After much waiting and anticipation, Thursday's game against the New York Knicks was finally the breakout game Bulls fans had been clamoring. 

While Butler did not have an explosive game, scoring only seven points on 2-of-5 shooting, I firmly believe head coach Tom Thibodeau and Bulls fans alike are now fully aware of what Butler presents given a healthy amount of playing time. 

After playing just 63 minutes in just 12 games, Butler saw his highest minute total of the year Thursday with 20, the most minutes of any Bulls bench player. 

After setting a career high in minutes (19) the night before against Andre Iguodala and the Philadelphia 76ers, it is becoming obvious Thibodeau has increased confidence in Butler.

Butler looked polished on the offensive end hitting a few key shots, including long jumpers. Any amount of shooting range from Butler gives the Bulls another option to spread the floor and allows Rose more room to operate. 

Most encouraging was Butler's ability to get to the basket and slash, an element largely missing from the Bulls attack in both the starting lineup and NBA-best bench. Butler struggled finishing at the rim but that will come in time.

For now, if Butler continues to slash and get to the basket, he will open new options for the Bulls offense in addition to creating floor space for three-point shooters like Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson.

Better yet, Butler can continue to draw fouls, which he was able to do quite well Thursday shooting 3-of-4 from the line. 

The most encouraging part of the game was Butler's defensive play, especially against established NBA superstar, and one of, if not the league's best pure scorers, Carmelo Anthony

Butler played a large part in holding Anthony to a measly four points in the fourth quarter.

That is no easy task for an elite scorer on the level of Anthony especially given that he had scored 22 the first three quarters. 

Butler's length and speed allowed him to cut off passing lanes and challenge shots including a block on an Anthony layup attempt late in the contest. 

Obviously much of Butler's recent playing time is a result of Luol Deng's wrist injury, but these last two games (13 points, five rebounds and 39 minutes) are definitely encouraging for the 30th overall pick. 

Not predicted to make much of an impact for the 2011-12 Chicago Bulls, Butler is slowly emerging as another threat off an already lethal Chicago Bulls bench. 

Given the defensive struggles of Korver, we could very well see Butler biting into his late game minutes, when defensive is especially vital. 

Time will tell if Butler emerges as a weapon for the Bulls but as it stands the young forward has been extremely impressive in the Bulls last two games.