Rip Hamilton Injury Gives Jimmy Butler Chance to Show Bulls, NBA His Potential

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 28: Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a shot against the Dallas Mavericks at the United Center on November 28, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Mavericks 101-78. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls were dealt another injury blow after they learned that Rip Hamilton would be out indefinitely after tearing his plantar fascia in his left foot against the Philadelphia 76ers, but Jimmy Butler now gets a chance to show his true worth to the Bulls with this huge chance.

Chicago loses their second-leading scorer and the veteran leadership from a 13-year NBA veteran in Hamilton.

Although his skills have diminished greatly since he left Detroit, it's still not good for the Bulls to have another shakeup in their lineup after losing Derrick Rose to a torn ACL last season. 

What's interesting, however, is that a guy they have as a possible replacement replacement at the shooting guard spot has been playing incredibly well over the course of the first month of the season.

Jimmy Butler, in limited time, has averaged 5.4 points per game to go along with 2.5 rebounds and a few assists and steals here and there.

It's not a lot on the surface, but when you compare it all to what he did a season ago and look at his stats on a greater scale, it seems like the Bulls aren't in such a rough place after all.

Butler, the 30th overall pick out of Marquette in 2011 averaged just 2.6 points per game over the course of 42 games while shooting just over 42 percent. He wasn't terrible, but he was nowhere near good enough to get extensive playing time.

In a bit more playing time this season he's improved his scoring while shooting at an incredible rate for a shooting guard at 52.9 percent.

We can go on and on about small sample sizes, playing in garbage time and going up against second units, but the fact that he's been able to get quality shots at the rim go a long way in any lineup.

Looking at his shot chart we can see that he's focused on attacking the rim, making 17 of his 26 shots at the rim. Everywhere else he's been hit-or-miss, but he's done his best to attack his hot zones on the right side of the floor and stay away from the three-point line, from where he's never been a good shooter.

Butler will be battling for playing time with Marco Belinelli, but Belinelli has proven to be nothing but a three-point shooter for the Bulls this season, everything else has been an unmitigated disaster.

Initially it seems as if Belinelli will be the one starting in place of Hamilton as he played as a starter for the past two seasons with the New Orleans Hornets, but if he continues to struggle, Butler could see a lot more playing time.

For the time being, however, it seems as if Butler is perfectly content with coming off the bench, and he's got the perfect role model to play alongside in increased minutes:

I was talking to (assistant coach Adrian Griffin) about it. I like being that spark off the bench with Taj. I feel like that gives me a lot more energy and just running out there with Taj, seeing the energy he gives off, the big plays that he makes, hustle plays. I kind of want to be like that coming off the bench. 

For the first few games while Belinelli starts he's going to have to get acclimated to increased playing time, but if he's able to prove that he's going to continue to be able to attack the rim and score in the paint then the Bulls will end up inserting him into the starting lineup.

He's not the guy with the crazy hops or the incredibly speed, but he's a very smart with and without the ball, he's a good passer and he can get to the rim off the dribble by breaking down his opponent, rather than just blowing by him.

Butler is an all-out effort player who scraps for everything the other team will give him, and what it has led to over the course of his career is just winning basketball.

He fits in with Tom Thibodeau's system, playing smart ball on offense and giving it his all on defense. It's a wonder he hasn't got more playing time over the course of this season as it is.