Best-Case, Worst-Case Comparisons for Jimmy Butler's Chicago Bulls Career

Haddon Anderson@HaddonAndersonAnalyst IJuly 12, 2013

How good can Jimmy Butler be?
How good can Jimmy Butler be?Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Jimmy Butler's 2012-13 campaign was eye-popping, to say the least. In his second season, the Chicago Bulls' guard raised eyebrows with his significant progression offensively, as well as his suffocating defense.

What should now be the forecast concerning Butler's future? What are some best-case, worst-case comparisons for his career?

Truthfully, this is a difficult assessment, and it wouldn't be shocking for his NBA trajectory to go in various directions. Since he really only compiled two or three impressive months last season, it's hard to know what his future outlook holds.

Were these eye-opening months merely a glimpse of what he'll accomplish in the league? Or, on the other hand, was he perhaps overachieving during these stages, meaning that further strides to his game may not be distinctly evident?

Butler's a humble kid who plays with a high motor, so he doesn't seem like the kind of player whose progression will be stunted.

Because of his attitude and growing work ethic, it's much more likely that one of the below best-case scenarios presents itself rather than the worst-case ones. His drive should continue taking his game to new levels, so let's analyze who he could be like in just a few years.

Best-Case Comparisons

Paul George

This appears like a stretch at first glance, especially since George made a statement in the 2013 playoffs. However, compare Butler's numbers this past season with George's statistics from his first couple seasons:

Jimmy Butler, 2012-13


Paul George, 2010-11


Paul George, 2011-12


Their production in their career's early stages was very similar. Plus, George received more minutes per game in his second season, which is the chief reason why his points, rebounds and assists tally tops Butler's.

Overall, they are comparable players, both of whom are top-notch perimeter defenders. Quite frankly, Butler may surpass George (if he hasn't already) as the best LeBron James-stopper (or, "limiter," I should say) in the league.

Furthermore, if Butler continues his offensive development, he could become a 15-or-so-points-per-game scorer (George averaged 17.7 points per game in this third year).

Unlike George, Butler won't need to shoulder a heavy offensive load with Derrick Rose returning, so he'll likely never equal George's scoring and assist output. A reasonable stat line for Butler come 2013-14 could be: 14.8 PPG, 4.8 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game and 1.5 steals per outing. These digits could then slightly ascend in the following years.

If Butler continues to pattern George, Bulls fans will surely be happy. They'll have an All-Star-caliber player alongside D-Rose.

Luol Deng

If Butler simply models his teammate Luol Deng, then he's developing into an ideal small forward. Deng has been an All-Star the past couple seasons, and he contributes in so many ways.

Butler and Deng are comparable because of their defensive tenacity and constant effort. Neither of them complain, and they fit the mold of Tom Thibodeau's defensive schemes perfectly.

What's more, they also approach the offensive end from the same vantage point. They don't seek to attack off the dribble much. They prefer to score off open jumpers and slashes to the rim. 

Deng is by no means a glamorous player, but he is an efficient one. It's very likely that Butler's upcoming seasons are very "Deng-like," which could even cause the Bulls to view the now 28-year-old Deng as expendable.

Deng boasts career averages of 16.0 PPG (46.0 percent, 33.4 percent from long range), 6.4 RPG and 2.4 APG. It's very likely that Butler's statistics soon head in this way, with hopefully a higher mark from three-point land. If they do, there's nothing to complain about. He'll become a staple on the Bulls' wing for many years.

Kawhi Leonard

Despite the San Antonio Spurs' devastating seven-game NBA Finals defeat, the Spurs did walk away with a major bright spot via the play of then-21-year-old Kawhi Leonard.

Now, it is a bit strange to ponder how Butler's game can develop into that of Leonard, since Butler is actually older. However, this is a compliment to what Leonard has already accomplished at a young age, and it is also a very realistic potential for Butler.

Butler and Leonard are remarkably similar players, and Butler could easily reach Leonard's level come next venture. Their size (Butler is 6'7'', 220 pounds, Leonard is 6'7'', 225 pounds), three-point percentage, rebound tally, defensive consistency and mindset are eerily close.

Consider their per-36 numbers, per Basketball-Reference

Butler, 2012-13


Leonard, 2012-13


Butler will very likely leap Leonard's stats, and perhaps far exceed them come just next season. What's more, maybe he will make a major statement in the playoffs next season like Leonard just did. This would further solidify the similarities between these two youngsters.

Their approach to the game and their humble focus should make each of these players integral members to their respective squads for a long time. The bottom line is that if Butler keeps emulating Leonard, he's on a good track.

Worst-Case Comparisons

Gerald Wallace

Gerald Wallace has been an effective small forward for awhile, but keep in mind that his most productive statistical seasons were with the Charlotte Bobcats. Needless to say, his numbers were inflated while playing for a bad team.

Overall, while Wallace and Butler do possess some positive similarities (size, defensive agility), it would be disheartening if Butler's game mimics Wallace's. 

First of all, Wallace isn't a mental warrior. He often carries a careless look on his face and he appears too accustomed to losing. Maybe that's what years with the Bobcats does.

Butler seems to have a completely different mental fortitude, so it would be disappointing if Butler followed Wallace's footsteps in even the slightest manner here.

Secondly, Wallace's long-range ball has never found its groove. Wallace's career three-point percentage is 31.3 percent, which is just enough to shoot the next one and is basically a coach's nightmare. 

Therefore, while Wallace has been an adequate small forward who brings athleticism, Butler's game is capable of attaining new heights. He may never pour in close to 20 points per game, but he should certainly be more well-rounded and mentally tough.

Corey Brewer

When Corey Brewer came out of college after winning two national titles at Florida, the hopes were high. He was drafted seventh overall and figured to be a stellar small forward on both ends of the floor.

His career has never really developed in such a fashion. Last season with the Denver Nuggets, he did average 12.1 PPG (which was only his second double digit scoring campaign in six seasons), but he shot just 42.5 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from distance.

In comparing him to Butler, the concern would be that Butler's career has a similar ceiling. Perhaps Butler's game never really develops and his jump shot becomes inconsistent. Maybe his three-point accuracy late in the year was more of a fluke, and he merely becomes a 8-12 PPG scorer who lacks efficiency. 

Brewer surely hasn't reached expectations, especially since he was a lottery pick. Based on Butler's recent developments, it would be unfortunate if his career patterned that of Brewer's. This would mean that very few improvements (if any) are still on the horizon.

Overall, Butler's arsenal may carve its own legacy in the forthcoming ventures. But, there are surely elements to his game that will follow after specific figures. 

If he enters his prime looking more like the best-case comparisons, then he has made the strides necessary for the Bulls to become a legitimate contender.

However, if he hits his peak early, then he may amount to a mere average to slightly above-average wing.

But don't bet on that. "Jimmy Buckets" appears destined for a lengthy, valuable NBA tenure. Expect one of the best-case scenarios to present itself.


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