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Since the Bulls inked Thibodeau as their head coach, they have been looking high and low for a shooting guard who can both shoot and guard. That shouldn’t be that complicated, but the number of players with that particular skill set is in decline.
They had some who could shoot, such as Kyle Korver or Marco Belinelli. They had some that could guard, like Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans. They had one, Richard Hamilton, who could do both to a degree, but he couldn’t do either, because he couldn’t stay on the court.
One of the big benefits of last season’s injury debacle was Jimmy Butler getting some heavy playing time and establishing himself as not only one of the best “three and d’” (players who play great perimeter defense and can knock down the three) in the league, he’s also a "three, d’ and free" guy, as in, he gets free throws, too.
Through his three preseason games, he’s been to the stripe 16 times already. Last year, according to Team Rankings, he was 17th in the NBA in free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt. He was second among guards.
Butler is an historic anomaly. His career usage percentage (the percentage of possessions that end with a player, either through shooting the ball or turning it over, using the possession) is just 14.6 percent, yet he gets to the line 3.3 times per 36 minutes over his career. No perimeter player with at least 2,000 minutes has a usage below 15 percent and gets to the stripe more frequently.
Furthermore, only seven players have a usage percentage as low as Butler and score more points. (Interestingly, two of the players ahead of him are former Bulls, Steve Kerr and Norm Van Lier).
That’s not to say that Butler is some kind of historically great player, but more than that, he’s a historically underutilized player. That indicates there’s a lot of untapped offensive potential in him.
He’s never going to be a high-usage player, but he can be a higher-usage player. In fact, last season, he was last on the Bulls in usage.
There’s lots of room for him to grow offensively, and his ability to drain the three, combined with his ability to draw contact off the dribble, indicate that he’s going to take another big step forward offensively this year.
Butler’s biggest weaknesses were things he worked on this summer, his handles and his mid-range jumper. Inside the restricted area, Butler was .657. Outside the three, he was .387, an effective field-goal percentage of 581.
Combined, that’s an effective field-goal percentage of .628 form the most efficient areas of the court.
From between those two ranges, he was pretty awful, though, shooting just .321.
While you don’t want to take a lot of shots from mid-range, you want to be able to when you have to, especially if you’re a shooting guard. That, to a large degree, depends on being able to create shots for yourself off the dribble, so those two things in Butler’s case are connected.
As previously stated, and similar to Gibson, these are things he worked on in the offseason. He’s shown improvement in the preseason, but it is still just preseason.
Field-Goal Percentage: .470
Three-Point Percentage: .395