Chicago Bulls: Backup SF Jimmy Butler Key to Bulls' NBA Title Run

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Chicago Bulls: Backup SF Jimmy Butler Key to Bulls' NBA Title Run
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Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler was an extremely effecitve player for Marquette, leading the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Sweet 16. Butler will be Luol Deng's primary backup, as the rookie will try to get into the Bulls' rotation.

The Chicago Bulls might have gotten Richard Hamilton as their starting shooting guard, but rookie small forward Jimmy Butler might be the key to a successful NBA Finals run.

Butler, a 6'7" swingman from Marquette, was the 30th pick in the draft and will be the primary backup for Bulls starter Luol Deng.

For the Bulls to be successful, Butler needs to be a solid bench player who could see significant minutes to spell Deng, who played monster minutes last year. 

During the 2010-11 NBA season, Deng played the most minutes of any small forward in the league. Deng's 39.1 minutes a game was more than Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant (38.9 minutes), the Miami Heat's LeBron James (38.8 minutes) and the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (37.9 minutes).

Overall, Deng played the third most minutes (3,208) during the regular season, behind only the Golden State Warriors' Monta Ellis (3,227) and the Portland Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge (3,211).

Part of the reason Deng saw such an enormous amount of floor time was the fact Chicago did not have a competent backup. Bench Mob members Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver were backup shooting guards and small forwards, but also had to spend significant time spelling Keith Bogans at the 2 position.

The Bulls made a big move this offseason in drafting Butler, who is a tough defender that averaged 15.7 points a game as a college senior. With Hamilton being the Bulls starting 2-guard, Butler will have the role as Deng's primary backup. 

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While Butler did not play in the Bulls' last preseason game, the rookie had a stellar performance on Dec. 16 against the Indiana Pacers. Butler played fundamentally well and with veteran savvy.

Offensively, Butler was 3-of-3 from the field, showcasing a smooth jumper, and scored eight points in just 16 minutes of play.

The more impressive aspect of Butler's game was his man-on-man defense. Butler drew an extremely difficult assignment of guarding the Pacers' Danny Granger, a top five NBA small forward.

Granger is a good slasher who can also shoot. The Pacer tallied 20.5 points a game last season. 

Butler used his speed and physical 220-pound frame to consistently frustrate Granger into settling for poor, contested shots. Granger was not able to get off as Butler helped Deng hold the Pacers star to 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting from the field.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was impressed with Butler even on draft night, as the scrappy Marquette player who "has the ability to play both spots (the 2 and 3 positions)" for the Bulls.

If Butler can consistently play up to his preseason form, the Bulls will have an invaluable bench player and asset allowing Deng to get some rest.

A well rested Deng would be key come playoff time, as Deng's major minutes was a factor as to why he wasn't an effective second-option to Derrick Rose.

For the Bulls to beat deep teams like the Heat and Thunder, they need Butler to be an immediate a key contributor. His first appearance gave the indication that Butler has the goods.

Bob Bajek is a Featured Columnist for the Chicago Bulls. He is also a freelance reporter and can be followed at and Twitter.

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