The Chicago Bulls have played short-handed for most of the season due to the numerous injuries the team has endured.
In spite of the offensive struggles and disappointing losses, there are some positives that fans should take notice of.
One of the few silver linings for the Bulls is the emergence of a few players who have stepped up during the course of the year.
When the Bulls parted ways with Ronnie Brewer following last summer, Butler was expected to fill the role as a defensive presence off the bench.
I had my doubts about that assertion, and Butler’s lack of playing time early in the season appeared to solidify my concerns.
Since then, Butler has come a long way to say the least. In the six games he has started at the small forward position, Butler’s averages include 14.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest.
In addition to that, Butler’s numbers are nearly identical in the five games he has started at the 2-guard spot.
Butler's numbers as a starter are significant because he only averages seven points a game when he comes off the bench.
If the Bulls are unable to re-sign Marco Belinelli, Butler would make a nice addition as a permanent starter next season.
Call me a cynic, but I was not keen on the acquisition of Belinelli either.
I felt the Bulls should have retained Kyle Korver because of his ability to shoot from beyond the arc with consistency, a component sorely missing from this year’s team.
Like Butler, Belinelli struggled early in the season with pedestrian averages of 7.9 points, 1.7 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 43 game games coming off the bench.
However, in 23 appearances as a starter, Belinelli averages 13.6 points, 2.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds per contest.
Belinelli’s increased production in the starting lineup combined with his ability to play both guard positions has made him a key piece in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.
Robinson was signed by the Bulls to provide an additional scoring punch to a bench unit that lost several key players from the last two seasons, and he has done well in his role for the most part.
In 51 games as a reserve, Robinson averages 11.8 points, 3.6 assists and 2.0 rebounds per contest.
And like his fellow teammates, his production increases across the board when given additional playing time.
In 22 appearances in the starting lineup, Robinson’s numbers jump to 14.8 points, 6.4 assists and 2.5 rebounds per outing.
So despite his reputation for being a shoot-first point guard, his assists per game as a starter shows he can be a scorer and facilitator.
In the final analysis, numerous injuries to key players have plagued the Bulls this season and prevented them from being a title contender in the Eastern Conference.
However, despite all of the bumps and bruises, this team has continued to fight, and the improved production of these players should be encouraging with regards to the outlook toward next season and beyond.