The 2012-13 Chicago Bulls campaign has been a frustrating one, as the team has lacked a sense of purpose this season. Star point guard Derrick Rose has yet to play after ACL surgery, and there is no indication of when he plans to return. Knowing how late it is in the season, there is a high chance that Rose will not play this season.
What this season has turned into is a tryout, a test to see which players can step up and be contributors on the team next season when Rose returns at full strength. Outside of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, no player came into this season with a guarantee of a contract or playing time for the future.
Perhaps, the player who has done the most to improve his standing with the team is second-year guard/forward Jimmy Butler. This season, Jimmy has tripled his points, rebounds, steals, blocks, has improved his field-goal percentage by six percent and increased his made three-pointers from two last season to 26 this season.
Heading into next season, there is no question that Butler has earned himself a spot in the rotation. The question is where can the Bulls play him? Next season, the Bulls have a hole at the shooting guard position. Current shooting guards Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli are not under contract for next season, and at least one of the two is sure not to return.
The lineup with Butler would be a fearsome defensive lineup with incredible size. Outside of Carlos Boozer, every other player has above-average height for their position. In addition, Rose, Butler, Deng and Noah are all elite defenders. The question is: Can Butler translate production to the shooting guard position?
According to 82games.com, Butler allows an opposing PER of 11.7 against small forwards. Surprisingly however, Butler averages an even better opposing PER of 10.4 against shooting guards. He has clearly shown an ability to guard shooting guards or small forwards at an elite level, so the defensive end should not be a problem.
The key factor with Jimmy Butler is the development of his offense. In 10 starts, Jimmy has averaged 14.4 points per game on 43.4 percent shooting from the field, 34.8 percent from three and 7.6 rebounds per game. If the Bulls can count on production anywhere near that, this will be a drastically different ballclub.
In the month of March, Butler made 13 three pointers and shot 42 percent from the three-point line on 2.2 attempts per game. These numbers show a player who is becoming more confident in his three-point jumper as the season goes on, and that is the first obstacle to overcome.
When playing next to Rose, it is absolutely vital to have a consistent three-pointer to space the floor for Rose to attack the basket. If Butler can develop a consistent three, which he is proving he can do, he can be a legitimate starting shooting guard on the Chicago Bulls next to Rose.
To maximize a team's ability, you must find a way to get the most talented players on the floor for the most minutes available. If the Bulls are able to play Butler starters' minutes at the shooting guard position, they will instantly catapult themselves to another level.
If the Bulls can get above-average production from the shooting guard position, while maintaining the defense, this team has as good a shot as any to beat Miami in the playoffs and win a championship.