How Jimmy Butler Is Earning a Role with the Chicago Bulls in Vegas Summer League

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2012

How Jimmy Butler Is Earning a Role with the Chicago Bulls in Vegas Summer League

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    If you don't count yourself among Jimmy Butler's biggest fans, don't feel too bad.

    He wasn't exactly a go-to guy in his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls.

    But, that could all change soon enough if his Summer League performance is any indication of what he's ready to do during the regular season. The 22-year-old Marquette product has been exceptional this summer and making the most of a limited sample size against sub-par competition.

    His timing couldn't be better, either.

    With Kyle Korver dealt to the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls have a job opening on the wing, and Butler could emerge as a more-than-affordable solution.

    Here are a few reasons why Butler is making a name for himself in Las Vegas.


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    Jimmy Butler is averaging 24.5 points through his first two Summer League games, good for fourth place among all scorers.

    More importantly, he's doing so efficiently and making 48 percent of his field-goal attempts.

    Though Butler has shown some perimeter ability, he's also proven capable from mid-range and around the basket. His athletic ability certainly doesn't hurt matters, but this kid can also shoot.

    Plus, if he carves out a space for himself in Chicago's rotation, that shooting ability will be one of the principal reasons why.

Aggressive Mentality

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    Coaches love it when guys run the floor on a fast-break opportunity.

    They love it even more when one of those guys follows up a missed layup with an explosive put-back dunk.

    You can imagine how well-liked Jimmy Butler is after that throwdown against the Boston Celtics' Summer League squad.

    Butler tallied seven rebounds in each of his first two games this summer, including three on the offensive end against Boston. His work ethic and willingness to crash the boards sets him apart from a number of young swingmen who fancy themselves elite scorers.

    Butler knows he's not just a scorer, and he knows he won't impressed head coach Tom Thibodeau without putting in the extra effort.

Ball Control

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    Jimmy Butler has the second-best turnover rate among forwards in the 2011 draft class, and he's shown as much in Summer League play.

    Despite logging an average of 37 minutes in his first two contests and seeing more than a few touches, Butler has only turned the ball over three times. 

    Sure, Butler won't be forced into as many turnovers as a guard might be. He can thank his position for that. But, the numbers also suggest that he doesn't try to force things. Butler knows how to play on a team, making the pass when needed or pulling up to take the shot.

    His ability to remain under control gives him a good chance to earn minutes once the season rolls around.


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    Jimmy Butler plays aggressive defense, but not to a fault. 

    He understands where to position himself and makes up for mediocre lateral quickness by keeping himself between his man and driving lanes. That kind of approach will pay dividends in the Chicago Bulls' team defense, and there's no doubt Butler can player better on this side of the ball than Kyle Korver.

    His wingspan is nothing special, and he won't come away with an inordinate amount of steals.

    But that doesn't mean Butler can't be a fantastic defender.

    Just ask Bruce Bowen.

Basketball IQ

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    For a lot of guys, the Summer League games are an opportunity to run up and down the floor flaunting their athleticism and shooting ability.

    Don't lump Jimmy Butler into that crowd.

    He knows how to play the game, and that's been his calling card since his days at Marquette.

    To hear DraftExpress' Matthew Kamalsky explain his college days, Butler is precisely the kind of player Tom Thibodeau would like in his rotation:

    Butler is a heady player who plays within a team concept. He defends, he makes the extra pass, he crashes the glass, he has a terrific basketball IQ, and his attitude is a coach's dream. A product of tireless reps in the gym and a detail oriented system, the senior has a very solid floor game, makes good decision with the ball, scraps on both ends, and maximizes the physical tools he does have.

    A little hard work and some smarts go a long way with Thibodeau, and Bulls fans in general, for that matter.

    Leave the glitz and glamor to the Miami Heat. The Bulls will take a working-class kind of guy any day of the week, and Butler may be next in line.