The Chicago Bulls decided to stay pat at the trade deadline. John Paxson and Gar Forman felt as if this is the team that could make it to the playoffs this season. Anything they need to do to make the team a championship contender would have to wait until the offseason.
One of the guys the team is going to lean on is Jimmy Butler. With the Luol Deng trade, he is the one coach Tom Thibodeau is looking for to take over the do-everything role. After a slow start, he is showing his stuff.
Butler has had a Jekyll and Hyde season. He has played 40 of the Bulls’ 53 seasons. He has battled an array of injuries (ankle, quad, toe) that kept him out of games and out of practices.
Butler has gotten healthy and the stats are showing it. In his first twenty games, he averaged 12.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.8 steals a game. In his last twenty, those averages have gone up to 12.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.2 steals.
Butler has taken to the do-everything role. The last few seasons, Deng has led the league in minutes, averaging about 37 minutes a game. With him gone, Butler has taken over the minutes lead and has played…you guessed it, 37 minutes a game. He even played 60 minutes in a triple-overtime victory over Orlando.
Now that the trade deadline has passed and everyone can breathe not having to worry about whether they will change addresses or not, Butler will be even more important. The Bulls are the fourth seed currently, just a half game behind Toronto for the third seed.
The Bulls are not far from where they were expected to be, but they have surely taken the scenic route to get there. Butler is expected to be the glue to keep them together.
Thibodeau has liked what he has seen from the third-year player.
His defense has been great all year. Now, I think his offense is starting to get in rhythm. I think he’s starting to feel a lot better. He’s got to keep doing what he’s doing…His rebounding is huge. He’s great at it, particularly late. He has an ability to rebound in traffic, not just [grab] the ones in his area, he’ll go get it. -Tom Thibodeau on Jimmy Butler.
Going back to Toronto, Butler came up big to help the Bulls inch closer to them. With two seconds remaining in the game, Butler blocked DeMar DeRozan’s potential game-winning basket. All in a day’s work for Jimmy.
All Star Joakim Noah is the face of the franchise right now, and rightfully gets a lot of attention, but Butler has been the glue. He has shown the feisty spirit that symbolizes the hard-nosed Bulls. In last Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, Butler and Joe Johnson went at it after Johnson elbowed Butler then poked him afterward.
The Bulls are hoping the team battles as hard as Butler does the rest of the season.