When the Chicago Bulls took Jimmy Butler with the last pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, almost everybody, who wasn’t a Marquette fan, was scratching their head wondering what value he would bring to a title contender that was in dire need of a shooting guard.
Jimmy Butler averaged 15.7 points, 6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists at Marquette. Solid numbers, but nothing that jumps off the page for being a first round pick. The truth of the matter is, Butler was a fantastic college player. He was very efficient on offense and didn’t force shots. On the other side of the ball he was a lock down defender. Jimmy had a terrific senior season leading Marquette to the Sweet Sixteen, and upsetting two higher seeds in Xavier and Syracuse in the process. In Butler’s game vs Xavier, he poured in 15 points and grabbed 5 rebounds while shutting down Xavier’s best player Tu Holloway, limiting him to 5 points on 1 of 8 shooting and 5 turnovers. It was apparent after his senior year that the 6-8, 220 pound forward from Tomball, Texas would be a lock down defender at the next level. And that’s why the once thought of questionable pick may turn into the steal of the 2011 NBA Draft.
In his rookie NBA year, Jimmy Butler played in a limited reserve role behind Luol Deng. Despite the limited playing time, Butler showed lots of promise on the defensive end when he received extended minutes guarding the opposing teams best players. In his second NBA season, he is off to a solid start. After Ronnie Brewer left to join the Knicks, Jimmy was asked to step up when Luol Deng injured his hamstring. Since Deng’s absence, Butler has averaged 40.5 minutes, 15.4 points, and 7.8 rebounds. On the defensive end, he has forced opposing players to take contested shots. A prime example of Butler’s tremendous defense was on January 21 against the Lakers when he was asked to guard Kobe Bryant. Bryant was held to 7 of 22 shooting from the field scoring 16 points, 12.1 points below his season average.
Butler has elevated his play in the last 7 games and there are reasons to believe his play will remain consistent. He plays to his strengths: hard nosed defense, taking good shots, and getting to the free throw line where he shoots 85.9%. Jimmy Butler is another prototypical Buzz Williams players. Hard work can equate to success at any level. If Butler keeps his play up it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a household name in the NBA.