The Bulls have a bright future with Jimmy Butler in the mix.
After rarely touching the court as a rookie, Butler’s playing time increased dramatically this season, as he emerged as a valuable role player for the injury-plagued Bulls.
With only two NBA seasons under his belt, “Jimmy Buckets” is already known as a superb defender. He earned the nickname “Kobe Stopper” this season due to his stellar defense on superstar Kobe Bryant. Butler limited Bryant to just 16 points on 7-of-22 shooting in a Jan. 21 victory.
And during the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus the Miami Heat, Butler’s D would help the Bulls steal Game 1 down in South Beach. He held four-time MVP LeBron James to only two first-half points. Although James would end up scoring 22 in the second half, Butler made him work hard for every point.
Defense is obviously not something that has to be addressed. Here are three things Butler must work on this summer.
While Butler is a lockdown defender, he isn’t exactly a lights-out shooter at the moment. The chart below displays his shooting percentage from various spots on the floor this season.
As you can see, his shooting from both three to nine feet and 10-15 feet needs a great deal of work.
Butler’s hit 40.5 percent off his three-point attempts during the playoffs. That’s a big jump from his 27.8 percent during February.
His three-point shot has obviously improved over the last few months. Butler, though, still needs to work on his jumper.
Hall of Famer Larry Bird attempted 1,000 shots per day during his playing days. Perhaps Butler should copy Larry Legend’s routine. Sure, that’s a lot of shots to take in a one-day period, but it would certainly be beneficial.
Derrick Rose—who missed a year while recovering from ACL surgery—will return to the Bulls lineup next season. That’s for Butler's benefit, seeing that he’ll get to play with an elite point guard. No disrespect to Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson, of course.
Butler will get a smorgasbord of open looks due to Rose’s ability to penetrate. If Butler can consistently knock down those open jumpers, he’ll emerge as the offensive threat Chicago has needed for quite a while.
Butler has a tireless work ethic, meaning he’ll spend countless hours improving his jumper during the offseason.
The Bulls desperately need a shooting guard who can create his own shot. Butler isn’t that guy just yet, but he can be with improved ball-handling. This would allow him to separate from his defender and get shots off much easier. Better handles would also make it easier to get to the basket and draw fouls.
Butler’s dribbling isn’t lousy by any stretch of the imagination. However, there is certainly room for improvement.
Butler should look to Rose for help in this department. D-Rose is easily one of the game’s top ball-handlers and possesses a lethal ankle-breaking dribble. As they used to say back in the ‘90s, “He got skills.”
Imagine Butler adding that to his arsenal. While he already has the ability to get to the rim, he would be simply unstoppable, leaving defenders in the dust on the way to a crowd-pleasing dunk. Bulls fans know all about Jimmy B’s crowd-pleasing dunks. Check this one out.
Strength and Conditioning
Butler is no bag of marshmallows. Or in other words, opponents don’t toss him around the court like a rag doll on a nightly basis. However, hitting the weights hard this summer wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The Bulls played the Heat four times during the regular season and five in the playoffs. Chances are the teams will meet at least that many times next season.
That means Butler will likely have to guard James on several occasions. Gaining pounds of muscle will surely help Butler in his quest to lock down King James, who is roughly 30 pounds heavier.
It’s imperative that Butler stay in tip-top shape, as coach Tom Thibodeau loves to play him heavy minutes. During the regular season, Butler played at least 40 minutes in 17 ball games, including a whopping 51 minutes versus the New York Knicks back in April.
Butler actually played 144 consecutive minutes during the playoffs, from Game 6 versus the Brooklyn Nets until Game 1 of the Miami series.
He’ll definitely have to work on conditioning this summer.