Jimmy Butler is one of the best wings in the NBA, but the Bulls didn't do him any favors this off-season.
Take a look at Jimmy Butler these days, and it’s hard not to hear the Fresh Prince rapping “My life got flipped turned upside down” in the background. In 2014–15, Butler’s breakout year, the Bulls were coached by Tom Thibodeau and the most-used lineup featuring Butler included Derrick Rose, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. Two years later, Butler is significantly richer and more decorated, but he’s also surrounded by entirely new faces: Thibodeau is in Minnesota, Rose and Noah are in New York, Gasol is in San Antonio and Dunleavy is in Cleveland. Almost as soon as the 26-year-old Butler arrived, he was left as the last man standing. The good news: Butler (20.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.6 SPG) is, much like Paul George before him, a two-way game-changer whose stabilizing presence makes it possible for management to pursue a dramatic makeover. While the 2016 All-Star and All-NBA Third Team selection remains a cut below the NBA’s A-list wings, he is dynamic enough on offense and committed enough on defense to carry a team to respectability as long as he can stay healthy. The most curious aspect of Chicago’s retooling effort, however, is how few of the moves seemed to play to Butler’s strengths. Fred Hoiberg’s softer touch led to some friction last year. Rajon Rondo will take touches away. Dwyane Wade, pitched as some sort of star mentor to Butler, feels more like unnecessary competition for attention and shots. Perhaps, then, Butler is best off keeping his head down in the event that there’s another round of dramatic changes coming sooner rather than later. (Last year: No. 18)
+ Traveled 2.64 miles per game on the floor last season, tops in the NBA
+ Ranked in the top 25 in PER, Win Shares and Real Plus Minus, joining LeBron, Durant and Kawhi as the only wings
– Missed 47 combined games over the last three seasons due to various injuries
– Never found balance with Derrick Rose, who possessed the ball for 5.7 MPG last year. Rajon Rondo, Chicago’s new point guard, averaged 7.5 MPG worth of possession