Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler currently ranks fourth in the league in minutes played with 38.2 per game, according to NBA.com. If he has it his way, he'll rank first when the postseason rolls around.
Per the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson (membership required), Butler said he's more than willing to replicate last postseason's heavy minutes (when he averaged 40.8 through 12 games): "Whatever it takes. I just want to win. I want to help us in any way, shape or form. If that's 48 straight minutes, if that's 60 minutes, I'm willing to do it."
Improbable as it sounds, don't be surprised if Butler's prediction comes to fruition. The Bulls don't have a ton of depth on the wing, and they'll be looking to leave it all on the line in these playoffs. Whether or not superstar Derrick Rose is around to pick up the slack, they have little choice.
Butler's making the most of his minutes in his third season. The 24-year-old is averaging career highs across the board, including 13.2 points and five rebounds per contest. Since Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he's become an even more essential element of Chicago's attack.
And without Deng, Butler's minutes will be all the more pivotal in the playoffs.
According to the Tribune's K.C. Johnson (membership required), Deng had a lot to do with Butler's willingness to go all-out:
Butler said he learned a lot about offday recovery from Thibodeau's former iron man, Deng. Butler said his non-game days consist of "a lot of rest, a lot of ice, a lot of stretching and a lot of massage." That's a lot of lots.
Fitting for a guy who plays a lot of minutes.
Per Johnson, Butler describes the commitment as being largely psychological in nature:
More than anything, it's mental. I used to see the way Lu took care of his body and gave it his all every night. That's what I try to do. You put any tiredness behind you and just play hard. You forget you even had aches and pains.
Butler's endurance is especially impressive given the effort he exerts on the defensive end. He's long been known as a solid defender, but CSNChicago.com's Aggrey Sam points to a game against Miami in March as serving as something of a coming-out party:
...while [LeBron] James clearly had an off game and didn’t seem to be his usual, attacking self for most of the day...Butler’s defense is beginning to approach a level where he should be mentioned among the top perimeter stoppers in the game.
So count Butler's minutes as minutes well-spent. He tirelessly runs off screens and sticks to his assignment like glue, even if not especially when that assignment is King James. We probably shouldn't be surprised if Chicago needs 48 minutes of that kind of effort in the playoffs.