Few outside of the Windy City were enraptured by the second-year wing. They knew of him, but not many were able to appreciate how important he was to the Bulls. And damn near no one (even in Chicago) was able to foresee how celebrated a savior he'd become.
"Savior," seems a bit strong, but that's the point.. That's what Butler is. In so many ways, that's what he has been all season, he's just elevated his degree of heroics on the national stage.
For those still unaware or miffed by the exploits of Mr. Butler, it's time you—and quite frankly, the Miami Heat—familiarized yourselves with who he is and what he does.
Because he's going to be around for awhile.
Butler is now 23, stands at 6'7", weighs in at 220 pounds and in his second NBA season. He attended Marquette University and was drafted by the Bulls with the last pick in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Previously, the combo wing was a two-year letter-winner at Tomball High School, where he also earned first-team all district in his senior season after averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
His path through high school, college and inevitably to the NBA wasn't an easy one, though.
At the age of 13, he was abandoned by his biological mother. From there he bounced around until finally settling down (via Adam Fluck of NBA.com):
When he was just 13 years of age and living in Tomball, Texas, his biological mother abandoned him, kicking him out of the house and sending him into the world on his own.
Butler bounced around from place to place; staying with friends and making it work. But that was a routine that got old quickly and he longed for some structure and consistency in his life. Enter Michelle Lambert, whose son, Jordan Leslie, befriended Butler, before eventually welcoming him into their family
Upon finishing high school, Butler wasn't initially offered a Division I scholarship and was forced to go the junior college route before ending up at Marquette.
Though not the typical path one takes to the NBA, Butler followed it. And eventually, it paid off.
Chicago drafted Butler with the 30th pick in the 2011 NBA draft in what was a dream come true for the then 21-year-old.
"It means the world," Butler said of his selection (via Fluck).
Less than two years later, Butler finds himself a vital cog in a playoff machine.
Before playing Division I basketball, Butler attended Tyler Junior College for one year. There he averaged 18.1 points per game, third-most in the league.
Butler helped lead his team to a 25-4 record as a freshman and a national ranking of 10th in the country amongst Junior Colleges.
From there, Butler played at Marquette for three years, finishing with combined averages of 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals on 50.8 percent shooting per game.
While in college, he was once again a three-year letter winner and a two-time All-Big East Honorable Mention.
Most of Butler's sophomore season was spent coming off the bench. He averaged just 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but earned himself Marquette's "Super Sub" award.
He went on to win Marquette's Most Improved Player award following his junior campaign the very next year, after averaging 14.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a starter.
During his senior season, Butler posted averages of 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He became just the 42nd player in Marquette history to top 1,000 points for his career and just the 19th to post at least 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
His two-way versatility and all-round diligence put him in the thick of the NBA's draft in 2011. It was there the Bulls selected him in the first round and struck underrated gold.
What Butler Has Brought to the Bulls
Though he averaged just 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 8.5 minutes per game as a rookie, an uptick of injuries, free-agency losses (Ronnie Brewer) and the demise of Richard Hamilton paved the way for Butler to join Chicago's regular rotation.
During the 2012-13 campaign, Butler's averages increased to 8.6 points and four rebounds in 26 minutes per game. He shot 46.7 percent from the floor overall and 38.1 percent from deep. But his numbers—or rather, those numbers—aren't the real story.
In just his second season as pro, Butler has established himself as one of the most pesky of perimeter defenders in the game.
Per Synergy Sports (subscription required), opponents averaged just 0.77 points per possession when being defended by Butler, the 38th-best mark in the Association.
Butler is able to defend from the inside out, is excellent at reading spins and defending off the dribble and suffocates his opponents both on and off the ball. Just ask Kobe Bryant. Or even LeBron James. They'll tell you.
More importantly, though, the second-year wingman fits Chicago's mold perfectly. He's an absolute workhorse.
I point you to his 2013 playoffs performance.
Through the first eight games, Butler is averaging 12.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists in 39.6 minutes a night. He's shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc and posting an offensive rating of 123.
Dating back to Games 6 and 7 in the first round of the Brooklyn Nets series, right on through to Game 1 against the Heat, Butler has played all 48 minutes in three consecutive contests.
NBA says Jimmy Butler is 4th since '76 to play 48 mnts in 3 straight playoff gms. Moses Malone '81, Nick Van Exel '95, Allen Iverson '05.— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 7, 2013
That's just what Butler does—he plays. He'll be whatever the Bulls need him to be, for however long they need him to do it for. And in Chicago's Game 1 upset of Miami, the Bulls needed him to dominate on both ends of the floor. So he did.
What is Jimmy Butler's NBA ceiling?
Butler had 21 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot in Chicago's victory, and he was the main reason (the only?) why LeBron James was held to just 3-of-9 shooting through the first three quarters.
Think of him like a smaller version of Joakim Noah with a less unfortunate haircut.
Butler is why the Bulls are where they are, even though they've been without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. And right now, he's a postseason savior, no hyperbole intended.
So remember his name and what he does, because he isn't going anywhere anytime soon. What you see now is just the beginning.
*All stats/information for this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, NBA.com and Synergy Sports unless otherwise noted.