Jimmy Butler was less than pleased about how Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau used him in the recent first-round playoff series loss to the Washington Wizards, and apparently, Butler let his coach know how he felt.
According to one teammate, Butler was unhappy enough that he actually met with coach Tom Thibodeau after Game 2 and voiced his complaints.
It wasn’t about the 43.6 minutes per game he saw in the series but that he felt like he was being phased out of the offense, especially when the two-point-guard attack of Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin was on the floor.
It's a little odd that Butler was miffed about his role. After all, he can't claim surprise.
During the season, the third-year small wing averaged 9.6 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes. In the playoffs, that figure dropped to 9.4 attempts, per Basketball-Reference.com—hardly a notable gap.
Maybe the real issue with Butler is a broader feeling of disappointment. He took a small step back in his third season, despite fairly widespread expectations that a leap forward was in the offing. You can see below how his efficiency took a major hit in 2013-14:
|Jimmy Butler's First Three NBA Seasons|
Some of that decline is explainable. Butler's role expanded last year, and he went from reserve player to full-time starter. Plus, a midseason trade that sent Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers meant Butler was always tasked with handling the toughest defensive matchup on the perimeter.
Fatigue had to be partly to blame.
At the same time, there's also a good chance Butler's shooting numbers from 2012-13 were outliers. He may ultimately be little more than a defensive stopper.
Going forward, Butler probably shouldn't expect his role to change much. If anything, he could see an even smaller share of offensive touches next year.
The Bulls are on the hunt for an offensive weapon this offseason, and names like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love are being tossed around—if only in the earliest whispered stages. But when you factor in a potential new addition and also consider Derrick Rose's return to the lineup, there might not be many extra shots for Butler to absorb.
On the other hand, perhaps a more balanced attack will result in fewer forced shots and better spacing. Both of those things would figure to help Butler's overall efficiency.
Ultimately, though, Butler had a chance to prove he was more than a defensive specialist this past season, and he didn't take advantage.
This probably isn't something the Bulls need to worry about, though. Butler works extremely hard and never shies away from a challenge. If anybody's going to put his head down and keep giving maximum effort—even when not getting (or converting) shots at a high rate—it's Butler.
As Thibodeau told K.C. Johnson and Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune during the series against Washington:
The thing about Jimmy is he doesn't get discouraged. He'll keep fighting. He has to guard everyone, has to playmake. I don't judge him on his scoring. I judge him on his contributions to winning. He has done a lot for our team.
Let's all agree to chalk Butler's frustration up to exhaustion and an admirable competitive streak. Chicago will be just fine, and it should be glad to have a guy like Butler on the roster—whether he ever turns into a useful scorer or not.